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Corporate Nov 8, 2012

Bajate raho Mr Bajaj, you are speaking industry’s mind

By Rajesh Pandathil

Industrialists must be taking heart from Rahul Bajaj's no-holds-barred attack on the government, for he has spoken their minds.

Bajaj has said if his company is doing well the reason is that he is not dealing with the government at all, according to a report in the Economic Times.

"We decided many years ago, decades ago we will not do business where we have to deal with the government. We don't manufacture, we don't buy things for the government...We are in motorcycles, the financial services...," Bajaj said.

"We do not want to have anything to do with their (the government's) bidding process," he said speaking at a session on 'Rebooting Growth'.

Clearly, business has been losing sleep due to years of chrony capitalism. This has resulted in a serious disconnect between the government and the industry.

He said he had cash, but does not want to get into power plants, coal mines and infrastructure development to avoid regular contact with officials.

His words must have hit the government-the officials, the ministers-where it hurts the most. The strike is all the more powerful, as the attack was in response to a lavish praise from a minister.

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar would not have expected this from the industrialist when he credited Bajaj Auto with consistent robust performance.

But considering Bajaj's outspoken nature, it is not a surprise.

In 2003, Bajaj had criticised Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the post-Godhra riots in the state. He had termed 2002 as a lost year for Gujarat, at a Confederation of Indian Industry event.

"We would like to know what you believe in, what you stand for, because leadership is important. You are today the undisputed leader of your party and government in Gujarat and we want to know you better...We are prepared to work with governments of all hues, but we also have our own views on what is good for our society and what works for it," he had told Modi.

Later, then CII director general Tarun Das had apologised to Modi for the comments.

But, Bajaj has gone down the history as one of the very few industrialists who spoke up after the killings.

But, it would be wrong to consider his yesterday's speech as one against only the United Progressive Alliance.

The various political parties that oversaw the corruption, in a system which the Congress furthered for decades are also answerable.

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After all, the BJP and others also got their fair bit of chance at the Centre over the last two decades.

"I want to sleep well at night," Bajaj said, which is why his company kept a distance from all government-related businesses.

These words are also a hyperlink to the story of another business man who was at the receiving end of the unholy business-politics nexus - Nusli Wadia. ( Read more here).

If the Wadia group has missed the bus "that's because I chose not to manipulate the system", Wadia had said earlier.

"God has given me more than I deserve. I want to sleep peacefully at night," he said.

He also said that the Wadia group has deliberately kept away from telecom - a sector that has been riddled with scams ever since it was opened up.

Clearly, business has been losing sleep due to years of crony capitalism. This has resulted in a serious disconnect between the government and the industry. Bajaj's tirade is a disturbing proof of the growing mistrust.

The sooner the gap is bridged the better.

by Rajesh Pandathil

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