A dying fight gets some Bombay Dyeing

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 06, 2012 03:35 hrs

It’s all happening in the capital: Scams, allegations, counter charges and rallies. Arvind Kejriwal and his colleagues seem to be on a rampage. Given the momentum they have built up, sometimes I get a feeling their motto is something like, “Give me the man, we will give you the scam.”

The Street did not have much to worry about till last week as companies remained at the periphery while the main target was the netas or their sons-in-law. But that has changed. Kejriwal took on crony capitalists head-on last week. He said they appointed ministers and removed them at will and demanded things that could have a drastic impact on the Sensex earnings per share.

Intellectuals and columnists were quick to defend the cronies on national television. They said the allegations were baseless. For them, the elephant in the room is best invisible. Complicated technicalities were blurted out in the name of analysis when the simply-worded allegations of Kejriwal were dismissed as ones of people without enough understanding of the “complexities”.

Complexities of what? Cronyism or capitalism? One senior lawyer on TV even defended “lobbying” saying it is an essential part of capitalism. Even those critical of the cronies chose their words so carefully that they ended up sounding meaningless.

Government and all the parties named sent out their due denials. The national audit body also flexed its muscles. But, the matter threatened to go out of focus as Subramanian Swamy parked his own little anti-corruption bogey right in front of 10, Janpath. The Congress responded with a rally in Ramlila Maidan on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail. God knows if there is some crony angle in the FDI retail debate. I would be surprised if there is none.

But like in many movies, the anti-crony campaign has got help from completely unexpected quarters. Nusli Wadia, the man who talks (to media) once in five years or so, told Business Standard that he himself was a victim. In fact, Wadia did not even want to give the activity the luxury of the better sounding name of “crony capitalism”. He called it ‘manipulation,’ simple to understand and a more direct description.

He said it dates back to the 1980s and originated from beyond the specific ministries of the government that are facing Kejriwal& Co’s wrath now.

“All the policies related to polyester and polyester chain during the 80s were manipulated. You had to manage the system for all licences.”

Elswehere he added, “the manipulation of the system has hit almost every business house in other sectors as well.”

He even goes on to say his group did not enter the telecom sector because “he did not want to manipulate the system.”

Coming from one of the leading industrialists, who rarely talks, it is worth a million endorsements Kejriwal could have asked for by the television commentators. Am I being objective here or am I losing objectivity allowing my thoughts to be manipulated by a man who has political ambitions and another who has some old axe to grind?

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