He claims he is against crony capitalism, but no one bothers to tell him that there can never be capitalism without cronyism
Being a former officer of the Indian Revenue Service, Kejriwal has enough appreciation of things, to set right the impression that he is not against corporates or capitalism, and he is endowed with enough verbal skills to assert that he is only against crony capitalism
The business magazine Forbes lists Mukeshbhai Ambani of Reliance Industries ranks number 22, with $21.5 billion on its list of top billionaires. There is no doubt about his numero uno ranking in India, as his next compatriot on this list is Wipro boss Azimbhai Premji, ranked at 91, with $11 billion. These are facts in the public domain, and the political clout of Indian businessmen at various levels is part of everyday experience. They are popularly described by the term ‘bade log’- big people, hence above and beyond every other norm applicable to them. In fact, during the UPA-2 regime, it happened for the first time that these ‘bade log’ found themselves in some sort of trouble over the telecom scandal. In true Indian tradition, no one has been found guilty as yet, but the mere fact that some of the lesser billionaires have been sent to jail, until they post bail, is no less a jaw-dropping development. For instance, who could have imagined that Vijay Mallya would have to drop so low.
But then this is a period when the hitherto unthinkable seems to keep happening. One such recent development was the massive electoral success of the debutant Aam Aadmi Party. It has left both Congress and the BJP strategists at their wits’ end. They really do not know how to tackle this AAP phenomenon. This is notwithstanding their public posturing. Known for stretching his luck, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has opted for a new gambit. If the Congress and the BJP got together to block his Jan Lokpal, he also clubbed them together. Picking up a line attributed to Mukeshbhai from the telltale Radia tapes, he has claimed that the BJP and the Congress are in his pocket. Now it is well-known that even small businessmen keep contributing to the coffers of the local politicos of all hues, and the contribution depends on their nuisance value. So, one should not be surprised if the house of Ambanis has contributed to both the parties, and in the current atmosphere, this would be enough for Kejriwal to paint the town red. After all, in this business of damaging reputations, who is asking for incontrovertible evidence? The mere whiff of plausibility is enough to sway electoral fortunes.
When Kejriwal’s deliberately short-lived government in Delhi, directed that an FIR be launched to include Mukeshbhai and other union ministers in the gas price fixing case, unlike the politicians who got trapped in the legalities, the man on the street believes that in the form of the AAP leader, there is at last someone who can target the mighty Ambani. Besides, even though politicians may pretend that they do not take the AAP seriously, and question Kejriwal’s constitutional right, the smart businessman that he is, Mukeshbhai had his company issue a prompt denial that he or his companies did not have any illegitimate foreign accounts. For them, the matter is not something that can be ignored. Being a former officer of the Indian Revenue Service, Kejriwal has enough appreciation of things, to set right the impression that he is not against corporates or capitalism, and he is endowed with enough verbal skills to assert that he is only against crony capitalism. But then who bothers to assert that dear Kejriwal, there can never be any capitalism, without cronyism. Cronyism is the essence of capitalism, as every businessman who talks of the market mantra, does his best to crush any kind of competition that dares raise its head. It is a different matter that there always different players in the market, but then business in the marketplace is always conducted on the basis of mutually accepted rules.
The fact that the Congress and the BJP have not been able to emphatically assert that Kejriwal;s charge of their being in the pockets of Mukeshbhai is bunkum only adds to the power of his campaign, and also sets Kejriwal free from coming clean about the source of their funds. Let us not forget that funds were one of the points of irritation between Kejriwal and his mentor of the agitation days, Anna Hazare. After all, if Kejri and company want us to believe that they are fighting elections on the basis of the small online donations, then they are stretching our credibility. True, they are freshers in this business, so they would get a lot of leeway, but then that is only a matter of time. Fighting elections in this country has always been big business. It is a different matter that the outcomes may not be according to the game plan of the big business, but it cannot be denied that elections are a big business.
All these accusations and tactics also muddy the real business of India. Unlike America, where the business of the country is a major concern of the government of the day, we are developing a culture that keeps on attacking every business activity on some ground or the other. No one holds a brief for the gas pricing mechanism used by the government of India, but we can be sure that irrespective of the route that is followed, there will always be questions asked. Some bright CAG will raise questions and make us wiser after the event. It is a sign of our immaturity, and the trust deficit in the transparency of our processes that have come to such a pass. Kejriwal is doing his electoral bit, and even if there is any iota of truth of in his charge that Mukeshbhai controls both the Congress and the BJP, then it is surely in his interest to ensure that such mechanisms are put in place. After all, as India’s number one businessman, the onus does rest on him to ensure that this community does its business with its head held high, and not under the shadow of unsubstantiated allegations.