Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor has said that he wants a "new India where Rahul Bajaj can invest and speak fearlessly to govt". His statements came in wake of a recent controversy after industrialist and Bajaj Auto chairman emeritus Rahul Bajaj in an award function raised concerns over an "atmosphere of fear" under the Modi government at the Centre.
Tharoor said the 'republic of fear' had become a "tangible reality" under the Modi government. "Under the Modi government, dissent is portrayed as seditious, protests are 'anti-national', activists are harassed, and free speech is censored through economic pressure on media owners and outright political intimidation - all of which are illustrations of the petty intolerance and chauvinism that passes as the majoritarian ideology in today's times," he wrote in an opinion piece in The Print.
Notably, industrialist Rahul Bajaj's remarks were addressed to the panel comprising FM Nirmala Sitharaman, Home Minister Amit Shah and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal at the Economic Times Awards event on November 30.
The senior Bajaj said there was an "atmosphere of fear" and people were afraid to criticise the government. He said the corporates lacked confidence that the government would appreciate any criticism. "This atmosphere (of fear), this is definitely on our mind, but nobody will say it, none of my industrialist friends," Rahul Bajaj said. "In UPA-II, we could give gaalis to anyone. (But) if we were to criticise you openly, we don't have the confidence that you will appreciate that."
BJP ministers had strongly reacted to Rahul Bajaj's "atmosphere of fear" remarks. FM Sitharaman said later that there's always "a better way to seek an answer than spreading one's own impressions". She also added that such remarks could hurt national interest.
However, the Congress party supported Bajaj's sentiments, saying his remarks were shared across the country. "What Rahul Bajaj said, is the sentiment shared across the country, across every sector," Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said.
The industry also seemed divided on the issue. While Biocon MD Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, echoing Bajaj, said the Modi government didn't want to hear "criticism" -- and urged the government to reach out to industry to find solutions -- RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group Chairman Sanjiv Goenka said he didn't believe that there was an atmosphere of fear among industrialists.
His son and Bajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj, however, termed his father Rahul "uncommonly courageous" but said nobody (from the industry) wants to join him and that they "conveniently cheer from the sidelines".
Edited by Manoj Sharma