THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 2 DECEMBER, 2019
‘Char Beta Suli Par’
Rahul Bajaj in the eye of a storm
NEW DELHI: Is it Congress versus BJP? Or Corporate Vs Corporate? Or Freedom Vs Fear? Or Rights Vs Authoritarianism? Or a little of everything and more. Or nothing of any of this, but just concerns expressed by an ageing industrialist.
Industrialist Rahul Bajaj has certainly taken over the headlines ever since he stood up to make those observations about the current climate of fear to Union Home Minister Amit Shah. And surprisingly did so to applause even though he ended his few words by saying that the persons around him were laughing and saying, chal beta suli par (go son, hang yourself), as an indication that this was precisely where his articulated concerns would now land him.
In his seemingly hesitant way Bajaj referred to BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur’s comments on Godse, reminding Shah that she was of his party, “because you gave her the party ticket, no one knew her before that.” And that she had been brought into the consultative committee despite the PM earlier saying he would find it difficult to forgive her.
He spoke of lynching, connecting it the prevalent atmosphere of intolerance where everyone is scared. He spoke of persons not being arrested for dire crime, and of persons not being convicted and languishing in jail. He said that it was important for a systemic change, “under UPA 2 we could abuse anyone that is another point. You are working well but even if we criticise you we don’t have the confidence yhat you will appreciate that…”
Bajaj said that he could confidently say that not a single industrialist would dare speak, and that he himself knew that perhaps he should not say these things. That he ended his few words with applause from the audience was in itself interesting, as a couple of years ago such sentiments would have been greeted with stony silence in a Delhi or Mumbai auditorium.
He also made it clear he came from a legacy where his grandfather was the adopted son of Gandhi, and the Rahul in his name had been given to him by Jawaharlal Nehru. He prefaced this with a - “you might not like this.”
But although Shah responded quietly while on stage, the Economic Times that had organised the meeting and the Times of India did not carry the news for 24 hours. Lest they get into the eye of the twitter storm that followed along with comments from two Union Ministers attacking Bajaj. The reaction has led to social media speculation about when Bajaj will receive a knock at the door from the Enforcement Directorate. Or whether his children will have to pay the price, although at the very onset of his remarks he tried to disassociate himself from them saying that they had taken over the business, and he was no longer involved in any capacity.
So one Minister Hardeep Puri echoed Shahs response by saying that the very fact that Bajaj could say what he said was indicative of freedom, and not fear. Shah also said the same with, “I think that after asking this no one will believe that anyone is scared.” There are societies in the world which are governed by fear, but a society where citizens can weave fake narratives & hurl invectives at the govt cannot be classified as one governed by fear, it is a society characterized by fair dose of indiscipline," said Puri without bothering to clarify whose was the fake narrative, who was hurling invectives, and who was indisciplined. The finger pointed, and that was enough.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated, "Home Minister @AmitShah answers on how issues raised by Shri. Rahul Bajaj were addressed. Questions/criticisms are heard and answered/addressed. Always a better way to seek an answer than spreading one's own impressions which, on gaining traction, can hurt national interest.” Interestingly in another tweet Puri also spoke of Bajaj “instigating others” matching Sitharaman’s warning of such comments ‘gaining traction.”
But traction the views have gained all over the social media with users divided between the Hamara Bajaj hashtag against a strong and direct attack on the industrialist. His personal life, his business, his family have all come under troll scrutiny even though this time around those supporting and defending him are not left behind.
Tweets questioning the political motives of Rahul Bajaj are countered by tweets “Bajaj is the new anti-national” and “Hamara Bajaj”, a take off from the company’s old advertisement campaign. Twitterati have asked Sitharaman to resign in the ‘national interest’, with memes showing her hurtling down an economic slowdown slide. Others have linked Bajaj to the industrialists who have fled the country. Still others have praised him sky high for saying it as it is. The BJP and the Congress have joined the fray, with the formers IT cell attacking Bajaj and the Congress praising him for his ‘integrity’.
Amidst the din the silence from industrialists and Bollywood remains deafening.