Monday, February 23, 2015

Is Reliance at War with the BJP Govt?

Two sets of events over the last few days, when read with developments over the past few years, indicate that all is not well between the Ambani-owned Reliance Industries, India's largest corporate conglomerate, and the BJP Government at the Center. The first event is what has been called the Corporate Espionage case, in which several people have now been arrested for leaking classified documents from the PNG Ministry, allegedly to sell them to global and Indian oil companies. In particular, Reliance itself has declared that one of those arrested was its executive.

Corporate spying, a darker version of lobbying, is nothing new and was manifested clearly in the 2G Scam and the Coalgate Scam. What is new is that the BJP Government has actually made the affair public and actually arrested and registered FIRs against those caught, while also evaluating SOPs and installing CCTVs to stop it. Therefore, the surprising fact is not the existence of espionage but the government's attempt to put a stop to it! And although several companies could be a part of it, Reliance seems to be the best-known one, at least in this case.

The second event is the clear negativity in the Network 18 empire, owned by Reliance, towards this government. This is surprising because the media group, with the exception of Sagarika Ghose on CNN-IBN, was seen as being rather favorable to the BJP and Narendra Modi in particular ever since he won his last Gujarat Assembly Election (and went on to win the General Election and become Prime Minister with a full majority). Firstpost, an opinions site owned by Network 18, has been spewing venom against Modi and his government for quite sometime now and its TV channels seem to be following suit, especially in the Delhi Assembly elections (arguably though, the entire media converged against Modi in that one).

Both these events lead to the obvious question as to whether Reliance is at war with the Union Government. The infamous Nira Radia tapes clearly made out the fact that the Congress is in Reliance's hand ('Congress toh humari dukaan hai'), despite the fact that the BJP is accused of being a corporate sell-out. The strictly-business approach of this government seems to be irking Reliance more than anyone else. The larger picture could come out soon. 

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