Gadkari’s big-band theory

Can measures favored, rather threatened, by a minister be diametrically opposite to government policy? Well, in the wonder that is India, they can be.

So, we have Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari who tells the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), “You may not like it, but I wish it from my heart that your growth should be less.” On the other hand, we have the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), a trust established by the government of India. It proudly proclaims, “The Indian auto industry is one of the largest in the world. The industry accounts for 7.1 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)… India is also a prominent auto exporter and has strong export growth expectations for the near future… several initiatives by the government of India and the major automobile players in the Indian market are expected to make India a leader in the 2W and Four Wheeler (4W) market in the world by 2020.”

Further, the official website says, “The Indian automotive aftermarket is estimated to grow at around 10-15 per cent to reach $16.5 billion by 2021 from around $7 billion in 2016. It has the potential to generate up to $300 billion in annual revenue by 2026, create 65 million additional jobs and contribute over 12 per cent to India’s gross domestic product.”

In other words, an important incumbent minister is actively working against his own government’s stated policy. Urging the industry to move towards sustainable growth programmes, he said that “petrol and diesel vehicles will need to make way for electric powertrains and engines running on other fuel variants such as ethanol and biofuels.” He was speaking at an event organized by SIAM on Thursday. “I am going to do it, whether you like it or not. I will bulldoze. Petrol diesel banaane walon kaa band-baajaa bajaanaa hai (We will take the makers of petrol/diesel engine vehicles to task,” Gadkari quoted as saying by The Times Of India (September 8).

Quite aside from the issue of a Cabinet Minister using punkish language, there is the complete divergence between his goals and those of his own government. He wants the sector to decelerate, while his government looks forward to higher growth, the sector’s contribution in the GDP to rise, and more jobs in it. One is not sure about the government’s sincerity towards its goal, but the Minister is damn serious in his intentions; he is hell-bent to “bulldoze” his way. Unfortunately for the auto industry, he is also capable of doing it, for he is the only member in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet who can speak his mind and have his way.

It is not just about threatening a sector; it is also about royal attitude. “I wish it from my heart…” “I will need to add one more lane to national highways.” “I am going to do it…” “I will bulldoze.” It is as if we are living in the Mughal era where the wish and word of the emperor is the law and policy; what matters is what His Royal Highness Gadkari believes in. The Union Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, and Parliament don’t matter.

The Modi government, as also its predecessors, wants to attract foreign investment; it proudly announces when it happens. The IBEF website says, “The [auto] industry has attracted foreign direct investment (FDI) worth $15.79 billion during the period April 2000 to September 2016.” But HRH Gadkari has other plans.

All over the world, including India, heads of governments and ministers woo captains of industry. Gadkari insults them. He said at the SIAM even, “I told my officials that you are influenced by Siam. I asked them to get consultants and introduce European and US standards, right from fuel to auto engineers.”

Is this the way the Modi regime wants to make India a manufacturing hub, attract FDI, and generate jobs?

 

Photo courtesy: wikimidia.org