So, industrialist and close family friend (by his own admission) of Nehru-Gandhi clan, Rahul Bajaj interacting from the audience in a media event told the panel that consisted Home Minister Amit Shah that the nation under the present government has seen an atmosphere of fear in which there is a fear of speaking one’s true opinions to power. HM Amit Shah replied stating that no one is punished under the Modi government for criticizing the establishment and in fact, it is against PM Modi and his government that the most opinion pieces were written. When Amit Shah said that the very fact that the industrialist is expressing his disagreement on the occasion itself indicates that there is no such atmosphere of fear, Rahul Bajaj was seen clapping from the seat.
Nevertheless, Rahul Bajaj’s statement provided fodder for the opposition as Congress and some opinion-makers and social media talking heads hailed it as the model of ‘speaking truth to the power’. On the other hand, many social media users have thrown light on the fact that the revenue of Bajaj company has grown in recent years and questioned how did they manage it if there has been an atmosphere of fear. Many have shown how Rahul Bajaj, who claims to be independent of his mind and hardly praises anybody, was eulogizing Rahul Gandhi’s speech on a business forum back in 2013.
Anyway, the scope of this article is not to question anyone on his individual credentials, but to look at what an ‘atmosphere of fear’ really looks like, especially when many people are throwing this term randomly.
When UPA Was Criticized…
Rahul Bajaj could openly throw criticism on the face of the Home Minister who was along with other senior ministers and claim that there was no such fear in UPA’s time. In return, he got a very calm and composed answer by the Home Minister.
P Chidambaram, as we know, had handled both the Home Ministry and Finance at different points of time under UPA. And this is what happened under UPA to a businessman who criticized Chidambaram’s family.
Atmosphere of Fear – Rahul Bajaj Knows it Better
In the so-called good-old-days of Congress rule, any disagreement with the power used to attract wrath for the people who were in business. The Nehru-Gandhi family that remained at the helm did not hesitate to create an atmosphere of fear over any disagreement even by those regarded as ‘family friends’.
When Kamal Nayan Bajaj (Rahul Bajaj’s father) had refused to support Indira Gandhi during the party split in 1969, the tax raids on the Bajaj groups followed. An article in the Money Control said,
“Sanjay Gandhi asked to use a place that belonged to them and Kamal Nayan Bajaj refused, saying it was only for charitable activities, so Sanjay Gandhi retaliated and raided their business. The first raid was on May 18, 1976 was carried out on the entire group. Almost 1,100 income tax officers simultaneously swooped on 114 Bajaj establishments across the country. Then 18 months later, Rahul Bajaj and his uncle Ramakrishna Bajaj aired their suspicion to the Shah Commission, a committee set up by the Janata government to examine the misuse of political power during the Emergency. The Bajaj’s dubbed the raids as an act of political vendetta, which in reality it was.”
Rasheed Kidwai of The Telegraph in a column back in 2010 had written an account that shows how the Congress rule at that time never used to think twice even to go after people who were said to be close to the Family. One may simply think about the kind of atmosphere of fear others might have faced at that time.
When PN Haksar, Indira Gandhi’s advisor as the principal secretary warned about the excesses of her son, immediately his uncles’ shops at Delhi were raided and one of them was put behind bars on flimsy grounds.
Rashid Kidwai’s article notes, “….throughout the 21-month Emergency when Sanjay and his team — Vidya Charan Shukla, Om Mehta and Ambika Soni — tried to take control of Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, an apolitical youth training and development centre in the heart of Delhi of which Bajaj was director.”
The article also noted that though the Bajaj family approached Indira Gandhi for help, the torment never ended.
At a time when phrases like ‘atmosphere of fear’ is being used without any substance in a mere rhetorical passion, it is necessary to recall the above-mentioned incidents and remind us of what the atmosphere of fear really looks like.