Enough is enough
Industrialists are backing Narendra Modi to give decisive leadership against Pakistani terrorism, argues N.V.Subramanian.
16 January 2009: Both the Congress and BJP have attacked the industrialists (Anil Ambani, Sunil Mittal, Ratan Tata, etc) who have backed Narendra Modi for the prime-ministership. The Congress as usual raked up the post-Godhra riots, disputed Gujarat's economic growth under Modi, and has questioned the incentives given to the Tatas to manufacture Nano in the state.
Trouble is, once upon a time, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation itself praised Modi's government for development. He handsomely won the last state elections on his development record. Voters cannot forever be fooled. The point about incentives to Nano is well taken, but so did West Bengal give those. West Bengal would have happily been producing Nano but for Mamta Banerjee.
The dilemma of the Congress was that its central leadership supported Nano while the state unit, reeling under the CPI-M onslaught, was with Mamta. Many other states were wooing Nano. In the competitive bidding, Gujarat won. You can still question the Nano incentives given in return for its development impact on Gujarat. But it is pathetic to dredge up Nano just because Ratan Tata hugs Modi on an occasion when the industrialists backed the Gujarat CM for PM. That's the ruling party for you running scared faced with general elections and running out of ideas.
But that's no surprise. What's even more surprising, and clearly still more pathetic, is the BJP response to the industrialists supporting Modi. Seeing Modi as a rival to L.K.Advani, the BJP's prime minister candidate, the party first lapsed into sullen silence. Then one of its spokespersons told the press that industrialists didn't elect or make prime ministers. That's a laugh. It reminds you of a dialogue between Michael Corleone and Kay Adams in the movie Godfather
Michael: My father's no different than any other powerful man [Kay laughs], any man who's responsible for other people. Like a senator or a president.
Kay: You know how naive you sound?
Kay: Senators and presidents don't have men killed.
Michael: Oh, who's being naive, Kay?....
Later, realizing that attacking the industrialists for backing Modi would help neither the BJP nor Advani, party mouthpieces spoke of Advani's contribution to Gujarat's progress, without understanding that it was only lowering the stature of Advani. Coming after or during the challenge from Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Advani must wonder why he is facing so much internal opposition as PM candidate compared to A.B.Vajpayee (this piece won't attempt to answer why), and he would hope and pray it is the last. But the damage is done.
But it still doesn't answer why the industrialists have so rallied behind Modi. It may be that they perceive Gujarat as economically marching ahead, and that Modi has not only marketed himself as the state's CEO but is in fact so. The buck stops with Modi in Gujarat. No question. But this writer somehow does not believe (and this writer may be entirely wrong) that a pro-industry Gujarat is the only or even the chief reason why men like Anil Ambani and Sunil Mittal root for Modi. (It is another matter that under Central government pressure, they may beat a hasty retreat from their position.)
The principal reason why Modi gets the industrialists' support is because they see him as an agent of change, the real goods. Corporate India is terrified after the Bombay terror attacks. It has no confidence in either the Manmohan Singh government (with its flip-flops, the latest being Pranab Mukherjee's) or in, if it happens, a future Advani dispensation battling Pakistani terrorism. Remember, Ratan Tata is the man who promised to raise a private anti-terrorist force to protect his business interests, and Ratan Tata never speaks what he does not mean to do. Industrialists are decisive. They have to be. They see Modi as being able to provide decisive leadership at the Centre.
Another thing. The industrialists are reflecting the anger on the streets, especially the streets of Bombay, on the growingly visible impotence of the Manmohan Singh government to punish Pakistan. And they share no confidence in Advani either being able to right things.
The industrialists' hopes may be misplaced, but they believe Modi can avenge Bombay so it is never repeated. Attacking the industrialists to hurt Modi is not the solution, therefore. With big money backing, Modi cannot be kept out of the Centre for long. The solution is to assume some of Modi's USP. Bombay and all the Pakistani terrorism preceding it have to be avenged.
Enough is enough.
N.V.Subramanian is Editor, NewsInsight.net. Har-Anand has published his new second novel, Courtesan of Storms
Please visit N.V.Subramanian's blog http://courtesanofstorms.blog.com/