With speech to industry, Arvind Kejriwal makes his case
Arvind Kejriwal's recent address at the industry association - CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) - in Delhi took everyone by surprise.
There was worry that AAP was being overtaken by Leftist ideologues who wanted to take India back to the Nehruvian socialist era. But Kejriwal spoke a language dictated by neither the communists nor the market fundamentalists. His speech appealed to common sense. He is not against business but against crony capitalism. He is keen on a vibrant private sector but against big business cartelisation. He said the government must not be in business. He says he is keen to get politicians and the bureaucracy off the backs of entrepreneurs so that they can easily set up new businesses.
The members of the CII watched in disbelief and heaved a sigh of relief. A well-orchestrated canard was doing the rounds: investigating big business is anti -business ...it will send the wrong signal to investors who may flee accompanied by a flight of capital...this may affect the equity markets.
The whipped- up fear was projected cleverly through party spokesmen. But if we have a truly independent Jan Lokpal and an autonomous yet accountable CBI so that the guilty can be prosecuted without fear, if we can eliminate the discretionary powers of bureaucrats and ministers who can run amok in dispensing favours to their cronies and relatives with impunity, if people can expect that tenders are not customised to favour powerful oligarchs and policies tweaked or changed to suit them, instead of eroding confidence, it will actually enhance trust in the country and its institutions.
It is a widely held belief among foreign investors that to succeed in India you need to be well connected to people in high places. So, many look for this credentials in brokers while doing a defence deal or an aviation deal or while scouting for joint venture partners in India where the sector is heavily regulated and its success is dependent on proximity to power and the ability to manipulate and influence the government.
The simultaneous blitzkrieg by Kejriwal on Reliance and traditional political parties has pushed the Congress into a corner and stunned BJP into silence. Independent of the merits of the case which AAP will have to prove in court, it is a brilliant political strategy in the run upto elections. Kejriwal has been able to tap into the public's seething discontent and disgust with self-serving collusions between politicians and industry.
But all this raises questions on the role of our various business associations and chambers of commerce. May be they need to introspect on their role in shaping economic policy.
Are these business associations mere cosy social clubs and garbs for lobbies for the 'big business' houses ? Can they be blind to the fact that some of the business tycoons in the highest echelons not only bribed their way to the top but also used their clout to keep new aspirants off their turf? Is it not the job of these chambers of commerce to expose and blacklist their members who use their muscle power that puts road blocks against millions of entrepreneurs with dreams to start a business and increase competition? Why for example are they silent when the airline cartels are trying to prevent new foreign airline JVs from starting operations while rooting for FDI in airlines in the same breath? Whose cause are they serving ?
Is it not the foremost sacred duty of these august bodies then to work tirelessly to bring in policies and regulations that will create a level playing field and equal opportunities for all entrepreneurs so that merit, innovation and hard work prevail over sleaze , nepotism and greed ? Why blame politicians ?
Kejriwal is a kid in politics. As in that fable, while everyone was scared to speak the glaring truth, and applauded the resplendent robes of the naked King, Kejriwal, like the child spoke what he saw," The King has nothing on.." more