Former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal caught his audience by surprise on Monday saying he firmly believes all business in the country should be privately owned and that he nor his party agreed with colleague Prashant Bhushan’s view that all enterprises should be state-owned.
Addressing the National Council Meet of the Confederation of Indian Industry here, Kejriwal said, “Government has no business doing business, it only has to govern. Business should all be held by the private sector… The party disagrees with Prashant Bhushan’s view that all enterprise should be state-owned.
However, if the government is inefficient then private sector will loot. Who will then regulate the private sector.”
A section of the audience remained sceptical of the AAP leader’s pro-business pitch. Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Construction Company Ajit Gulabchand asked him whether he was really pro-business or whether his speech was merely pro-audience given the negative reference about business in his book Swaraj and comments from AAP leaders Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav.
“His speech does not impress me. People like Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav have repeatedly made anti-business comments but Arvind Kejriwal made an effort to sound pro-business. He said his book was on politics that is why there is little on business. I cannot understand. Till I see AAP’s economic policy written down and passed in a party meeting I cannot comment,” Gulabchand said.
Quizzed about his decision to audit power companies and the tirade against Reliance Industries, Kejriwal clarified his party is against crony capitalism not capitalism.
Kejriwal, seen as having Left leanings, praised industrialists as the real engines of growth and appealed to them become party to the “revolution.” He promised to simplify tax structures and spelt out his party’s opposition to “licence raj”, claiming that in his 49 days at the helm in Delhi he solved many pending VAT issues of businessmen. “We are first class citizens who are victims of third class governance,” he said.
Some in the audience were impressed. He was not grilled about withdrawal of Delhi government decision to allow FDI in multibrand retail. Godrej Group chairman Adi Godrej did not agree entirely with the single point anti-corruption agenda but said, “I cannot talk about others but I came back reasonably convinced. He is not as much a socialist that I thought he was. A lot of council members had doubts on that count. It was a good speech but too short to outline an economic agenda.”
Some industrialists felt his single-point agenda of ridding the country of corruption was naive. They felt Kejriwal was deficient in providing a real roadmap for economic rejuvenation and job creation. “He took great pains to explain he is not anti-private sector and certainly moulded a lot of opinions in the room to his advantage. A single point agenda of cleansing the country of corruption may be a bit naïve. We look forward to a concrete roadmap,” said Binayak Chatterjee of Feedback Infra.