Veteran industrialist Rahul Bajaj on Saturday criticised the government, saying that there is fear in industry and no industrialist will say it publicly. At a media function, where Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal were addressing questions from the audience, Bajaj Group chairman Rahul Bajaj expressed concern over lack of confidence among corporates to criticise the central government.
He criticised the Modi government for absence of effective action against lynchings, and the remark of Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur praising Nathuram Godse in Parliament. People who know Rahul Bajaj will say he is fearless. "He is not like industrialists who always appreciate governments, even for bad moves," another industrialist said.
The 54-year professional story of Rahul Bajaj, 81, is also interesting. In an interview to Business Today last year, he said, "There were challenging moments." He is less involved in day-to-day business nowadays but watches every business move his sons Rajiv and Sanjiv make and shares critical opinion.
When he joined Bajaj Auto in 1965, its sole plant was in Akurdi (19 km from Pune) was totally isolated. But he left behind his high-end lifestyle in South Mumbai (then Bombay) and moved to Akurdi, building a house inside the plant area, where snakes were regular visitors to his home. "I told my Bombay friends who asked me about it that I did not want to be an absentee landlord," he says.
The octogenarian industrialist is still a workaholic and stays late in office at the Bajaj Auto headquarters in Akurdi. His elder son Rajiv Bajaj's office in Bajaj Auto is in the neighbouring building in the same premise, but younger son Sanjiv's Bajaj Finance moved to a tower near to Pune airport about 11 years back. However, Sanjiv and his family stay with Rahul Bajaj at the house inside the old factory complex at Akurdi.
Rahul's wife, Rupa, who passed away in 2013, never complained about the simpler life, Bajaj remembers. All his three children - two sons and daughter Sunaina Kejriwal - grew up in Akurdi. "The factory workers saw us every day and considered us one of them," he says. "Both my sons went to the same school and college in Pune, and later studied engineering at Warwick in the UK."
Rahul Bajaj has five grandchildren - four grandsons and a granddaughter.
Bajaj still shares his passion for driving iconic scooter Chetak, which he created in the 70s. After withdrawing the brand a decade back, Bajaj Auto brought it back in new avatar as electric scooter.
Bajaj has worn many hats outside of business as well. He was Member of Parliament until 2012. He was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 2001. But the highest award received in the family is Padma Vibhushan, which was conferred on late Janaki Devi, Rahul's grandmother and wife of the group's founder Jamnalal Bajaj, in 1956. Jamnalal, grandfather of Rahul Bajaj, was considered as the foster son of Mahatma Gandhi. He was a freedom fighter.