Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the ground-breaking ceremony of various projects in Uttar Pradesh was at once a celebration of the crony capitalism he is often accused of and a denigration of every entity that resists it.
Ever since Congress President Rahul Gandhi accused Modi of running a “suit-boot ki sarkaar” over three years ago, this is the first occasion when the PM himself has presented a vocal support of industry. He was not afraid of standing by the side of industralists, Modi said.
This strange defence could not have come at a worse moment for him, at a time when his government is facing a relentless campaign unleashed by the Congress party over the multi-million dollar Rafael deal. The Congress has alleged that Modi-government agreed to inflated costs of fighter jets to benefit Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence.
In spite of multiple rebuttals, BJP has not been able to conclusively dispel these charges. Gandhi and his party have kept up the heat on Modi with fresh charges related to the deal on almost a daily basis.
Modi’s Lucknow speech was clearly a response to these allegations, but it is unlikley to have helped his case. Look at how he framed the discourse.
In his defence of industry, he began with listing legal checks and balances, environmental concerns and media scrutiny as evils and as insurmountable challenges.
Note the brazen underlying assumption – all private capital is noble while legal requirements, environment compliances and media coverage are obstacles.
The country is run either by the Prime Minister or by the patwari, Modi went on to say, clearly showing his own inability to look beyond himself.
The structure of the state – comprising the legislature, executive (headed by the President acting on the advice of a Council of Ministers) and judiciary – does not matter to the Prime Minister. Neither do the people who elect their representatives to govern the country on their behalf or the Constitution that provides the foundation of the state.
“We are not those who are afraid of standing by the side of industrialists, unlike those who are never photographed with any businessmen but all businessmen pay obeisance at their doorteps,” Modi stressed.
“When the intention is clean, one can stand with anybody without attracting any stains,” he elaborated. In this context, he also chose to give the example of Mahatma Gandhi’s friendship with GD Birla.
It is baffling to try to understand how can allegations of helping businessmen seen as close to the PM, and other leaders of the ruling party, with government largesse be equated with the relationship between the leader of India’s freedom movement and an ideologically committed businessman who supported the struggle.
What exactly is Modi trying to argue by putting poor farmers, artisans, labourers, bankers-financers, bureaucrats and industrliasts in the same bracket?
All businesses are not being maligned here. The scrunity is directed only at a select few against whom evidence of receiving undue favours from the government is piling up.
Modi also said no action used to be taken against crony capitalists earlier because previous governments were involved in various dealings with them behind the scenes. “Don’t we know in whose planes do people travel,” was Modi’s apparent taunted at Opposition leaders.
He appears to have conveniently forgotten how he himself, as Chief Minister of Gujarat and the BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate (in 2013-14) used to travel in a prominent businessman’s aircraft.