Calling Rahul Bajaj’s bluff over ‘atmosphere of fear’ remark is not intolerance of dissent

There is a fresh spring in the step of the old establishment elites. These benefactors of the stifling & decayed Nehruvian ‘Ídea of India’ have latched on to the economic downturn and the Maharashtra political potboiler to renew their attacks on the man they loathe the most – Narendra Modi.

If the aftermath of Modi’s stunning 2014 electoral victory saw the war cry of ‘Rising Intolerance’ and ‘Minorities Under Attack’, similar voices have now adopted a variant of the same line of attack just a few months after Modi’s even more stunning 2019 electoral victory. The chorus now is ‘Atmosphere of fear’ and ‘Institutions under Attack.’

Industrialist Rahul Bajaj during a recent media conclave addressed top Union Ministers sitting on the stage and said industrialists are not sure if they would be spared if they criticised the government –

Stating that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the tallest Congress leader of his time, gave him his name, Rahul Bajaj said, “We could abuse anyone during UPA-II rule. You are doing a good job but there is no confidence [among industrialists] that if we criticise you openly, you will appreciate that.”

“No industrialist will speak about it,” said Rahul Bajaj adding, “They are laughing saying ‘go, get crucified’ but I will say openly, an environment [of trust] has to be created.”

Twitterati was quick to point out Bajaj’s double standards. He had levelled the exact same charge in 2015, and one should ask what vengeance did the Government wreak on his business after that? He claims to have been a trenchant critic of the UPA Government, but he can be clearly seen praising the dud Rahul Gandhi to high heavens in videos from 2013!

Any neutral observer of Bharatiya politics can tell you that not a day goes by when PM Modi or his Government are not criticized, fairly or otherwise, by mainstream media for something or the other – economy, social issues, law & order, foreign policy & what not. Crimes are selectively highlighted and used to peddle an agenda of fearful minorities, whereas the ground reality is anything but.

Earlier, the Government was accused of massaging numbers to project a rosy picture of GDP growth, but today when the same GDP numbers are not looking that good, no one is asking why the GDP calculation methodology that was earlier dismissed is now being used to berate the Government?

No one is denying that the economy is going through a downturn, but the doom and gloom propagandists  want us to forget certain inconvenient facts –

1.) GST was a long-pending tax reform which all Governments have tried to push in last 10-15 years. And no implementation of such a massive change can be expected to be flawless. Also, rationalizing GST rate slabs is a federal exercise involving several non-BJP Governments too. So what exactly are the professional breast-beaters trying to achieve by attacking the Government on GST? Criticism of demonetisation is more legitimate as that clearly had an effect on the informal economy – but then again, how far can we really go with a parallel black, informal economy?

2.) The bank NPA (non-performing asset) problem was created in the corrupt, crony capitalist UPA regime. This Government has initiated a long overdue clean up and every finance professional worth his/her salt has nothing but praise for the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) which is being used to clean up this mess.

3.) Government is pumping in more money than ever before and delivering on national infrastructure creation – highways, power, railways etc.

4.) Two core areas crying out for reform to stimulate the economy are – land and labor. Government tried to bring land reform in its first term and was met with a tidal wave of opposition and jibes like ‘Suit boot ki sarkar’ from the perpetual prince-in-waiting. Did Rahul Bajaj or his ilk take Rahul Gandhi to task for his obstinate resistance to this key reform. On labour reform too, every political party is scared to stir the hornet’s nest for obvious reasons – still this Government is trying to bring some reforms here too. Stay tuned for the tidal wave of articles talking about worker’s rights and castigating the ‘business-friendly’ Modi Government in The Wire, Print, Scroll et al in coming days! Most of these top business honchos will stay silent while their ‘intellectual’ friends, who move in the same social circles as they do, attack Modi for any pro-industry move.

5.) Bharat has made a staggering leap in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking – from a dismal 142nd place in 2014 to 63 in the latest report released few months back.

6.) Everyone knows that Bharat’s bureaucracy is a severe impediment to the country’s rapid economic growth. Even the minor moves made by this Government to reform the bureaucracy like allowing lateral entries in few joint secretary level posts were met with fierce resistance. Have industry titans spoken up on this issue?

There are other areas where the Government can & should be criticised – for eg. our education system is still not generating the high-quality human resource required to drive innovation at a massive scale, especially in science & technology. But there too, the professional critics of the Government stay mum when lumpen students hijack a premier University like JNU for months on end, or when IIT students put more stress on ‘beef fests’ rather than focus on their subject research. The draconian RTE act drafted by Sonia Gandhi’s coterie is shutting down schools all over the country, but our premier industrialists have not uttered one word on this crucial topic.

Rahul Bajaj is not alone. There are others of his ilk, like Biocon’s Kiran Mazumder Shaw, who have grown so accustomed to being viewed as industry titans and being heard on every topic under the sun (not just business related) that they still yearn for the good old days of Congress raj when they were part of the ‘in’ group, when ordinary plebians hung on to their every utterance.

Who says you can’t criticise the Government? The so-called Right Wing does it every day – for police apathy when Hindus are at receiving end of severe human rights violations, for the legalised discrimination we face in controlling our religious institutions & running our schools, for the institutionalised manner in which our beliefs & way of life are being attacked at every level. We criticise, but we also have the sanity to acknowledge what the Government is doing right. Old guard of BJP has criticised the Modi Government with undiluted vitriol – they are still around, aren’t they?

But what us ordinary people don’t do is create a false bubble that we are under some sort of ‘undeclared emergency’. We accept that in the nosy marketplace of ideas that is today’s Bharat in the age of social media, we have to offer clear, precise arguments to be heard. The old elite like Bajaj, Shaw et al would do well to internalize this lesson and stop acting like injured martyrs who are being persecuted for ‘speaking truth to power’.

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