Mumbai is often accused of not engaging with politics. Though the commercial capital of India has earned a reputation for its business acumen, it has also become notorious for quietly watching from the sidelines as the country’s political landscape alters.
The launch of Shekhar Gupta’s book, Anticipating India — The Best of National Interest(Harper Collins, Rs 799), at Trident, Nariman Point on Tuesday evening, not only saw some of the biggest names from corporate India in attendance but also had them engage in a discussion on the country’s politics and the much-debated and anticipated results of the elections. The book is an edited volume of The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief’s weekly column, National Interest, on economics and politics over 19 years.
Among those in attendance were Mukesh D Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited; Harsh Goenka, Chairman, RPG Enterprises; Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, ICICI Bank; Uday S Kotak, Executive Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Kotak Bank; Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Construction Company; and author Shobhaa De with husband, industrialist Dilip De.
An introduction to the book by Seema Chishti, Consulting Editor, The Indian Express,marked the beginning of the evening. Gupta was then joined on stage by Arun Shourie, former Union Minister and journalist, for a discussion on Indian politics. The duo, said Gupta, share a guru-shishya relationship since Shourie’s days as the Editor of The Indian Express. “But one thing Arun hasn’t taught me is how to write short articles,” Gupta quipped.
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Much of the discussion revolved around the elections and its results. About the Congress-led UPA’s term, Shourie said the threat Congress faces today stems from the fact that the party doesn’t have strong people working for it. “Most civil servants are like Manmohan Singh, they are ‘civil’ and ‘servants’,” said Shourie, which had the audience in splits. Gupta added that “the biggest contribution of Congress to the next government is the bouquet of opportunities it has presented to the next government”. The duo, amid their banter that peppered the serious discussion, also reprimanded corporate India for not speaking up against the UPA government when it wasn’t delivering on its promises.
However, several corporates present at the launch did take the opportunity to have a dialogue on politics. In the question-and-answer round, they raised several pertinent questions on governance before the evening came to a close.