Industry bodies hail PM, Opposition says he only supports “crony capitalists”

New Delhi | Updated on February 11, 2021 Published on February 11, 2021

Industry bodies and corporate houses, on Thursday, hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong advocacy of a more laissez-faire approach to governance and also inversion and unshackling of power structures from bureaucracy, while the Opposition said he has only proved the point that the government is only furthering the interests of big capital and “crony capitalists”. The bureaucracy, on their part, averred that unlike private enterprises, the much-derided IAS has no conflict of interest in governance matters.

The PM, in his reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s address on Wednesday, had sought to quash the growing chorus from the farmers’ protest and also the Opposition against “monopoly” capitalism by asserting that India needs “wealth creators” to distribute wealth among the poor and the marginalised. He also highlighted the problems in the bureaucracy handling businesses in India.

Backs private enterprises

“We need to seriously think as to what kind of power structure has been created in this country where, if you become an IAS officer, you get to run a fertiliser company or a chemical plant or even an airline while the youths fail to get the same opportunity,” the PM had said. He also came out strongly in support of private enterprises. “Demoralising private companies and disregarding their contribution would not do any good to the country or its youth,” he said.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry welcomed the PM’s comments. “We are grateful to the PM for the trust reposed in the private sector. While this speaks of the vision of the PM in the role played by the industry in nation building, it also puts enormous responsibility on the business community... At a time the Covid-hit Indian industry is trying to pick up its rhythm of high growth, the PM’s acknowledgement would be a much-needed shot in the arm for entrepreneurs and the business community. The private sector contributes as much as 87 per cent to the GDP and almost 60 per cent to the employment in the country, and if India has to lift its teeming millions out of poverty, we need to create a national consensus to ensure that those who create jobs, economic value and a culture of enterprise are recognised for their contribution,” said Uday Shankar, President, FICCI.

Industry leaders Anand Mahindra and Sajjan Jindal also interpreted the PM’s statement as a great encouragement for the “community that has been creating wealth and jobs”. “Welcome words of encouragement at a fragile time for private enterprise due to the pandemic. Now, we have to live up to the expectations… both in performance and governance,” tweeted Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra.

Aside from Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Ham Do Hamaare Do’ jibe at the “two people who run the government and their two crony capitalist friends”, others in the Congress forwarded a more nuanced view. “Who said we are against wealth creators? The credit for unlocking animal spirits in the economy as also providing stable economic growth during the world economic crisis goes to the Congress. The PM is confusing crony capitalism with genuine wealth creation. We encourage a healthy, competitive market growth, but not pawning the nation’s wealth and public assets at throwaway prices for the handpicked. So, yes, we have a problem when all the major airports are being auctioned to just one industrialist close to this government and Air India cannot disclose the names of the selected bidders. Advocating health private sector growth is different from promoting crony capitalism,” Congress MP Manish Tewari told BusinessLine.

“The PM should be clear about wealth creators. Who are the wealth creators? They are not owners of an industry. The agriculture workers, farmers, workers in industries also create wealth. Such comments show his shallow understanding of the economy. He blames the bureaucrats, but they are part of his own government. He accuses his own government when he accuses bureaucrats,” said CPI General Secretary D Raja.

The bureaucrats, on their part, pointed out that they are a detached participant in India’s growth story. “I do not deny that there are competent people outside IAS setup. We have very qualified management persons, doctors, engineers, lawyers, economists. But no one has the hands-on experience of the IAS. I have done most challenging law and order as well as development assignments. The difference is that private sector has clear objective and freedom of action. The IAS has none,” said SC Tripathi, Former Secretary, Government of India.

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Published on February 11, 2021
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