If earlier the Congress chief would frequently use the phrase ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’, or a government for and of moneybags, to describe the Modi government, he has now taken to build a narrative around the government “favouring” a handful of “10-15” industrialists and businesspersons.
However, even here the party has focused primarily on holding press conferences and issuing press releases about the alleged proximity of the Modi government with industrialists like Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani and the Adani Group, jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
Party sources said the nuanced approach is after feedback that the party was being perceived to be anti-industry among corporate groups.
Close on the heels of its sustained attack on industrialist Anil Ambani and the Rafale fighter jet deal, the Congress on Monday demanded an SIT (special investigation team) probe in a “coal scam”. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh alleged the Adani Group is involved in the scam being investigated by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.
Ramesh said the Congress stood for a healthy and a strong corporate India. “Our message to the corporates is that the Congress party stands for a healthy and a strong corporate India. It stands for a coporate India that functions according to rules, regulations and not on political whims and fancies,” Ramesh said.
Over the past year, Gandhi has repeatedly spoken of the need to strengthen and encourage the Small and Medium Enterprises, or SME, sector as the prime driver for job growth. But the Congress has also tried to reach out to the big corporates. In its economic resolution passed at its plenary earlier this year, the Congress highlighted the pain of the SME sector as a result of demonetisation, but also underlined the problems being faced by the power, telecom and mining sectors. “Currently, the mining sector faces a new crisis, especially in Goa, Karnataka and Odisha, rendering thousands of workers unemployed, and the Modi government has neither the will nor the ability to find a solution,” the resolution had stated.
Elaborating on the Congress party’s vision, Ramesh said: “We want an economic environment in which the corproate sector grows — all parts of the corporate sector, SMEs, micro, large enterprises.”
We want the corporate sector to prosper and flourish in India. But when there is evidence of nexus, when there is evidence that laws have been broken, then action must be taken against the corporate sector, however influential they are.”
According to party sources, the Congress would continue to attack the Modi government for its “nexus” with a handful of corporate groups, and highlight the centralisation in decision making that has led to some corporate groups having benefitted during the last four years.
Pointing at the damage to the SME sector, Ramesh also pointed out how the SME sector’s non-performing assets (NPAs) have increased from 6.4 per cent in March 2015 to 9.4 per cent in March 2018.
“Whether the SMEs or large enterprise, in the last four years, in spite of whatever the Prime Minister says, the environment for corporate sector has been very badly disturbed,” Ramesh said. He said the SME sector’s NPAs have increased not because of any phone calls to the banks during the UPA years but phone calls from the Modi government.