Centralisation of power with Prime Minister due to weak ministers: Rahul Bajaj

Post-liberalisation, industry associations are ‘groping in the dark’ and they need to reinvent themselves, Rahul Bajaj said.

Centralisation of power with Prime Minister due to weak ministers: Rahul Bajaj
'There is degree of inexperience which is resulting in centralisation of power' says Rahul Bajaj. (Reuters)

Industrialist Rahul Bajaj today said “inexperience” of some ministers is leading to centralisation of powers with the Prime Minister and cautioned it would be “self-defeating” to believe that there is no political alternative in the country.

Stating that many of the ministers have come into Parliament for the first time, the Bajaj Auto Chairman said there is a “degree of inexperience” which is resulting in centralisation of power.

“Weak Ministries have a natural tendency to centralise which has its benefits and is good in parts, (but) has its limitations, especially in a large and complex country like India,” he said speaking at the 108th annual general meeting of industry lobby IMC here.

The outspoken industrialist said the 2014 election verdict was in favour of one man (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) and not really for the party (BJP) and added that the PM continues to enjoy good traction.

“It was a one man victory and I don’t want to say a one man government because if Sunil (Alagh) goes and tells the PM that I said that, I will be in trouble,” Bajaj said, pointing to the brand strategist who is often seen supporting government policies in various panel discussions.

“I believe, politically the winds still favour the BJP. On the ground level, people say not much has been done. Favourable winds are still more so not in favour of BJP, but the PM,” he said.

Amid concerns over decline of the Congress which is resulting in the lack of a strong Opposition, Bajaj warned the government that holding any belief of there being no alternative is a “self-defeating” one.

“The moment someone from Opposition comes to power, he changes. Ministers change. When they come to believe that there is no alternative to them, that belief turns out to be very often to be a self-defeating one in my view.”

Bajaj maintained that such an attitude is contrary to how a business person conducts himself, knowing well that the customer has alternatives.

He, however, lauded the “generally correct” direction taken by the government on economic issues and added there has been “tangible progress” in the power and roads sector.

Bajaj welcomed Modi’s disapproval of voices like BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, saying he hopes these are truly elements on the fringe within the ruling establishment.

“The Government and society are not helped by some elements in the ruling party. Hopefully, they constitute a ‘fringe’. They ignite socially divisive issues and vitiate the social environment. Speaking to reporters, Bajaj said he wondered what will happen to Swamy, who famously announced that he has prepared a list of “27 targets”, after the remarks by Modi.

At least twice in his over 40-minute address, Bajaj said he could be targeted for being publicly critical of the government, leaving the audience amused. He requested a person sitting in the audience, who is considered close to the ruling party, not to share these comments in Delhi.

On the Swamy issue, the former Rajya Sabha MP said, “I’m not going to say more on it and call spade a spade because I will get into trouble in Delhi. This is enough.”

Similarly, when he expressed reservations about the inexperience in the government as well, he restrained himself.
On the successor to outgoing RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, Bajaj said he must be a “person of integrity, independence, who knows his economics and has been abroad”.

He said the Congress is “de-facto” opposing the GST bill by imposing three conditions and in light of Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s statement of not passing a constitutional amendment Bill if there is a din in the Upper House, it remains to be seen if the indirect taxation reform becomes a reality in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament.

Bajaj rued that in the last many years, we have not been able to innovate better products in India.

Stating that a well-functioning society is a prerequisite for businesses being successful, Bajaj advised India Inc to conduct in such a way that the credibility of enterprise is restored in the eyes of people.

Indian business lacks social credibility and it should create wealth honestly, the billionaire businessman said, adding that the rich have to act differently than the way they are acting right now.

Despite measures taken on improving ease of doing business, the veteran industrialist rued doing business is still a “pain” for the average entrepreneur in the country and asked industry lobbies to take care of such people.

He said post-liberalisation, industry associations are “groping in the dark” and they need to reinvent themselves.

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First published on: 28-06-2016 at 19:06 IST