In the realm of Indian politics, there has been a recent clamor from the political opposition to establish a connection between businessman Gautam Adani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, expecting a response from the Prime Minister on such allegations is unrealistic. Business leaders forging links with Indian prime ministers is a time-honoured tradition, and history bears witness to it. Decades ago, the late JRD Tata accused the Indira Gandhi government of stalling the growth of Tata Steel. Indira Gandhi chose not to respond. Similarly, during the tenure of Prime Ministers HD Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral, civil aviation minister Chand Mahal Ibrahim effectively scuttled the Tata-Singapore Airlines project. No one demanded a statement from Deve Gowda in response. It’s worth noting that business-government connections are not unique to any particular government in India. Economic policy decisions have always had a significant impact on business houses. The meteoric rise of the Adani group during the current government’s rule is indeed noteworthy, but not unprecedented in India. The Ambanis have benefited from government policies spanning generations, from Indira Gandhi to the present.
Recent allegations of Adani share price manipulation, inflated share prices, and offshore operations in Mauritius have surfaced. However, these allegations do not automatically implicate the Indian government or Prime Minister Modi personally. Inflated share prices can enable promoters to borrow more funds, but it’s the responsibility of lenders to assess the true value of stock mortgages. Moreover, the connection between business and government is a natural occurrence in any country with a closely intertwined relationship between the two. The recent government decision to restrict imports of laptops, desktop computers, and tablets raised questions about its potential impact on Reliance’s JioBook. While some speculate on a hidden agenda, the opposition has remained surprisingly silent on the issue. Looking back at India’s pharmaceutical industry, a handful of local manufacturers managed to gain government support to drive out multinational giants in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, India stands as a top drug manufacturer and exporter. This raises questions about the political opposition’s stance on government-industry links in domestic drug price fixing.
The history of business-government ties in India is as old as the country’s independence. In the 1950s, the government, led by Jawaharlal Nehru, curtailed the growth of established Indian business groups under the Monopolies Act. However, innovative private investors, like the late Dhirubhai Ambani, gradually transformed the business-government landscape. In the realm of politics, corruption allegations may not be a strong enough issue to challenge the Modi government, especially considering the questionable backgrounds of some opposition leaders. Instead, the opposition could focus on specific governance issues if they hope to gain traction in the lead-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha election. The connections between business and government have deep historical roots in India. While allegations and suspicions may arise, it is essential to approach them with a sense of perspective and objectivity. The political opposition would do well to concentrate on pressing governance issues if they aim to present a formidable challenge to the ruling BJP in the upcoming election. Amid India’s complex political landscape, it is imperative that the focus remains on constructive and forward-looking solutions to the myriad challenges facing the nation. India’s potential is vast, and it can only be fully realized when all stakeholders work together to build a brighter future for the country.