When Rahul Bajaj criticised the PM in 1993 and wasn't called 'anti-national'

While the government has shown the alacrity of Severus Snape faced with a shampoo to slam Rahul Bajaj over his comments about ‘fear’, Bajaj has always been known to be vocal about his displeasures.

Piyush Goyal, Hardeep Singh Puri and Nirmala Sitharaman all came out in droves to attack Bajaj’s comment.

Puri sounded positively dystopian while harking on ‘indiscipline’ and wrote: “There are societies in the world which are governed by fear, but a society where citizens can weave fake narratives & hurl invectives at the govt cannot be classified as one governed by fear, it is a society characterized by fair dose of indiscipline.”

Nirmala Sitharaman, the beleaguered Finance Minister who has become the face of economic distress said: "Always a better way to seek an answer than spreading one’s own impressions which, on gaining traction, can hurt national interest.”

Meanwhile, the BJP IT Cell when hammer-and-tongs after Bajaj and Amit Malviya shared videos of Bajaj to paint him as being preferential to the previous dispensation.

However, Mr Bajaj, much like the beloved scooter he is synonymous with in India, is known to sputter and voice his displeasures, irrespective of who’s in power.

Writing for The Indian Express, PM Manmohan Singh’s former advisor Sanjay Baru notes that in 1993 that while FM Manmohan Singh was publicly dismissive of Bajaj’s concern, PV Narasimha Rao paid heed and reached out to business leaders.

Baru writes: “His critics, including the more enthusiastic liberalisers, called it the “Muddle Path”, but the PM ensured he had everyone on board, stayed the course and moved India forward. The time has come for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to also reassure the nation that he will neither swerve to the Right nor the Left, but walk the Middle Path of “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”, with greater conviction.”

Praising Bajaj for speaking up Baru further adds that there’s a world of difference between ‘concerns’ and ‘fears’.

While concerns are bureaucratic in nature, Baru notes that fears are different. He writes: “Fear is often about the knock on the door, the tap of the phone, mysterious acts of retribution by persons in power. They do no good to the reputation of a liberal democracy. It is good that Bajaj has spoken openly and it is equally good that Union Home Minister Amit Shah has publicly reassured him, stating emphatically that the government would “have to make the effort to improve the atmosphere”.”

However, given the government’s tendency to only listen to Yes Men – as Subramanian Swamy is wont to point out - it would be optimistic to the point of foolishness to expect Modi-Shah and the current dispensation to hear the concern.

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Free Press Journal