Opinions

ET View: Spot on, PM; industrialists are not shameful company


You are judged by the company you keep, goes a saying. Indian politicians have traditionally not been keen to be seen cosying up to Big Industry. In the current climate, coloured by India’s biggest banking crisis hitherto and industrialists taking refuge abroad after scamming banks or defaulting on huge loans and being labelled fugitives by the government, a lot of animosity is directed towards industrialists, especially those who have a flamboyant public presence.

It is not clear if Rahul Gandhi has read the Communist Manifesto, which claims that the history of all existing society is the history of class struggles. But it is its spirit that he invoked when he accused the government led by PM Modi of being a government of the rich, suit-boot ki Sarkar. This would appear to have had a telling effect, with the government abandoning its move to push through changes to the land acquisition law and central labour laws.

A discourse of development, growth and investment promotion has helped take away the traditional hostility that politics bred against the captains of industry, through the slogans trade unions and Left parties had mainstreamed, invoking wrath against Tata Birla ki Sarkar. Yet, when growth stumbled after 2011, rural wages stopped rising in real terms after 2014, and protests had mobilised latent anti-industrialist passions in different parts of the country to oppose land acquisition for non-agricultural projects that inevitably involved some industrialist or the other, anti-industry feelings once again emerged as a viable resource to be tapped for partisan ends.

It is welcome that the political leadership has decided to put an end to the trend with a decisive statement that there is no shame in being seen in the company of industrialists. This is most welcome. It would be even more welcome, if the government were to also make public its selection criteria for choosing industrialists to assign vital and lucrative project such as building Rafale aircraft in India and aid-funded power plants in Bangladesh.

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