Spreading own impression can hurt national interest: FM

Rahul Bajaj and Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman (PTI Photos)

After Bajaj industries chairman Rahul Bajaj flagged the “environment of fear” in the Modi regime, becoming the first industrialist to openly raise fingers at the government, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Monday burst out saying “if such impressions gain traction, can hurt national interest”.

The minister first took to twitter and then used the floor of parliament to answer Bajaj's remark, two days after it was made in front of her at a media event late Saturday evening.

“We are a government that listens, whether it is criticism or an input. When Home Minister responded to an industry leader, it was with a clear attitude that we are willing to hear or take criticism. I was on the dais,” she said while replying to the taxation amendment laws in the Lok Sabha.

But even before she raised the issue for the second time in parliament, her party, which unleashed a brutal attack through union ministers, was widely trolled on twitter.

Among those, who joined the Twitterati panning the government, were Congress leader Kapil Sibal, his party spokespersons Salman Anees Soz and Sanjay Jha.

Actress Urmila Matondkar, who recently quit Congress, said, “We need more like Rahul Bajaj, who will stand up for the rest.”

Columnist and author Tavleen Singh said, “that senior ministerS in the Modi government needed to retaliate aggressively against Rahul Bajaj confirms what he said. The private sector is hurting badly but most businessmen are too afraid to say this”.

The 81-year-old, third-generation leader of Bajaj Group of companies, who has now almost ceded control of his firms, except Bajaj Auto, to the younger generation, had on Saturday, stirred the hornet's nest, when at ET Awards, a gathering of government and industry leaders, dared to say, “You (the government) are doing good work and despite that, we don’t have the confidence that you’ll appreciate criticism. This environment of fear, it’s definitely on our minds”.

Also read: Congress lauds Bajaj for 'speaking truth to power'

Home Minister Amit Shah, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, and Sitharaman were on the dais, when Bajaj raised issues of tax terrorism, putting opposition leaders in jail without their getting convicted, mob lynching and BJP MP Pragya Thakur’s remarks praising Nathuram Godse

Bajaj, Harvard Business School alumnus, who has been quite vocal on the government policies in the past, irrespective of which regime is in power, had also said that many other industry leaders would not dare to open their mouth against the government.

He found support from the lone industry voice Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon, who tweeted, “Hope the government reaches out to India Inc for working out solutions to revive consumption n growth. So far we are all pariahs n govt does not want to hear any criticism of our economy.

The audience also included RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das.

Bajaj had, in the past, also criticized the Congress-led government in 2013. He had then said, “instead of focusing on highways, power, rail, ports and IT networks that are critical for sustained growth, we steadily raised the nation’s fiscal deficit to finance consumption-based subsidies and handouts”.

Bajaj's son Rajiv Bajaj, who is the managing director of Bajaj Auto, was quoted as saying he was personally not sure of the “relevance of raising such a sensitive and subjective issue at a public function to celebrate corporate excellence”.

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