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Corporate India’s euphoria over Modi’s rise has ended. It’s been replaced by suspicion & fear as he’s let businessmen know they can’t see him as their own.

Delhi and Mumbai, we keep saying, are like two sovereign republics yet to establish diplomatic relations with each other. That situation hasn’t changed very much. The relative power of the two varies, depending on just one variable: the strength of the government in Delhi. The cities, for clarity, are mere metaphors for the power establishments, one representing politics and the other legacy, old-economy Indian entrepreneurship and the financial world still pretty much controlled by a small ecosystem of friends and families, interconnected with marital, ethnic, caste (and sub-caste or clan) ties, plus IOUs. This is like India’s permanent capitalist and financial establishment. It doesn’t change.

The regimes change in Delhi. Even if we take 1989 as the cut-off (when India’s permanent single-party rule ended) Delhi now has its eighth prime minister. The ruling parties or arrangements have swung between deep secular Left – Gowda’s cabinet had two CPI ministers holding key positions, home and agriculture – for the first and last time ever; and unabashed Hindu Right, when the BJP won a full majority without even one minority Muslim or Christian MP elected.

Mumbai can usually find its way around any political establishment. It knows the tactics and instruments. It also has patience, helped along by the presumption that regimes in the capital change. It doesn’t, therefore, bother too much interfering in the “internal affairs” of the other republic.

Shekhar Gupta, chairman and editor-in-chief of ThePrintA turning point came 2011 on. Legacy Corporate India decided it was time for a regime change and that it was capable of bringing it about. There were three forces driving it. First, some of the better entrepreneurs were fed up of the policy paralysis, denial of environmental clearances or fuel linkages after they had borrowed billions and put plants on the ground. They wanted a functional, pro-business government. Second, and I say it with great care, where India’s old capitalism comes from, there isn’t much love lost for Muslims and never mind that “my best friends are Muslim”. So, can we now have a government that will be pro-business and also show the Muslims their place? The third, and the most important factor, therefore, was that option was now available.

Corporate India got more involved in ‘Mission Modi’ than at any time in national politics. Mumbai thought it had found its man for Delhi. It believed it succeeded and there were whoops of celebration. That ended quickly. Four years on, it’s now turned into suspicion and fear. Mumbai is finally, and deeply, frightened of Delhi. Old-timers say the fear is like in the months of V.P. Singh’s raid raj.

The fact, however, is that nobody has been raided yet. So what are they complaining about?

At one level, it is the frustration of jilted lovers. This isn’t the government Narendra Modi had promised us. Nor is this the Narendra Modi of Gujarat we had voted, rooted and contributed for. An important and positive factor with the Modi government is that lobbying mostly doesn’t work in Delhi any more. His isn’t a government that believes it owes anybody anything. Big business doesn’t like it. It wants him to be like he was in Gujarat, with open doors and a big heart. But after coming to power, Modi has shifted his politics to where the votes are. And the businessmen don’t count. The tough fact is, never in our economic history, not at least since 1991, has big business been so powerless.

There is also a more complex side to this. As a consequence of Modi resetting his politics as a champion of the poor and a corruption fighter, the taxman has been given unprecedented powers. Tax terrorism of today, if you hear the same businessmen who contributed heavily to his campaign – and are still putting money for him in electoral bonds – is worse than anything they remember, they say. Tax departments are being given targets to meet and much greater powers than before. Almost everybody has a horror story, either his own, or something “we all keep hearing”. Industry associations and chambers CII, FICCI, and Assocham have very little clout or persuasive power left.

It isn’t in the nature of corporate India to speak anything other than paeans of praises for any government. A couple might just have whispered some criticism of demonetisation, but were chastened by a slap on the wrist – just a friendly phone call from Delhi. Indian business’s greatest challenge right now is the frozen credit system. This government, though, isn’t mostly to blame for it, most debts turning bad were given or evergreened in UPA’s times, especially in the go-go years of 2009-12.

The rot in the system was known for at least three years, but left too late to be resolved. Several things came in the way of timely resolution. First, the change at the top in the Reserve Bank of India. Then, the shock of demonetisation before the new governor had settled down. Barely had that debris been cleared when GST was pushed through. The system had not been prepared for any of these changes, and therefore, got fully consumed in dealing with these. The bank bad-debt resolution was kept for the government’s last year. Today’s stress and distress are a combination of all these factors: of being dumped by the political establishment you thought was your own, tax terror and frozen credit.

This entrepreneurial fear and loss of morale is for real, and most inopportune when good corporates are seeing profits and demand rise. Steel, in the dumps not long ago, is booming, and so is cement. The bankruptcy process of the first “dirty dozen” is proceeding well and banks should see sizeable amounts coming back, especially from steel companies. At the same time, 12 of the 21 PSU banks are so broke that the RBI is closely monitoring any lending by them. One, IDBI, is now a basket case. And those that can lend are hesitant, for fear of visits by the CBI and ED long after they retire.

In this environment, everybody is over-correcting, from banks to borrowers to RBI. The latest example being the circular the central bank issued in February barring any restructuring except through the bankruptcy process after a set timeframe. Nobody wants to take any chances, least of all the RBI. The silent new governor was never allowed (or chose not to allow himself) to build the stature for the job. The government is now trying to get this circular diluted.

The big, rich guy’s biggest fear isn’t bankruptcy, but the police. As we noted earlier in this piece, none of them has been raided or prosecuted criminally yet. But Vijay Mallya first, and then the Nirav Modi-Mehul Choksi duo have given corporate India a foretaste of criminalisation of economic offences. Phobias rise not from reality, but illusion.

The most popular current illusion is: the PSU banks are in a mess. The Modi government also needs some big private sector trophies to affirm its anti-corruption credentials before the polls. So on whose neck will the sword fall next? To that extent, the outing of the ICICI-Videocon story is cathartic. The whistleblower’s 2016 letter had been floating on the power-WhatsApp circuit for weeks. Many would feel relieved that it’s out in the open now so all sides can have their say.

Phobias, as we said, are often not based on reality. But they can be a reality as this one is.

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68 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Secular campaign against ‘modern Shivaji’ PM Modi is not based on facts. May it be communalism, NPAs, PNB Scam, Anti Dalit, alliance with PDP, Demonetisation, Drive against Black money, Cambridge Analytica whatever you take in the heart of the hearts all political enemies will agree that all allegations will not stand a test of scrutiny. That is why Seculars have to always invent/manufacture new issues as no allegation goes for mote than 48 hours. Even allegations go for 48 hours because Modi Government does not monitor news live and they react only after 48 hours. They also lack communication specially live feedback from knowledgeable supporters and sympathisers. Even than Seculars are not able to damage their image specially of ‘modern Shivaji’. More they attack more he shines.
    Congress leadership is so weak that it is easily influences by secular media who have no understanding of India and its traditions. Otherwise Congress would not have opposed Ram Mandir & Triple Talaq. Their stand on beef and impeachment of CJI perceived as reaction to hearing on Ram Mandir in SC are also not intelligent.
    Can a campaign based on lies against BJP Govt and PM Modi will succeed, only time will tell.

  2. Is it really true that India’s rich are #Powerless & #Fearful ? Look at #MukeshNitaAmbani #GautamAdani & #BabaRamdev ! Often #NaMo is a #Model for #RelianceJio , approves #TaxMoratoriums for #Adanis & maintains suspicious silence for #BabaRamdev !The Trio forms the #DeFactoGoI . I fail to understand why Shekhar Gupta has to bat defensively for the corporates !

  3. Is Shekhar Gupta ignorant about the fact that the personal wealth of #MukeshNitaAmbani increased to make him India’s #Richest (Beggar) with the stupendous #Rise in the Debt & Liabilities of #UnreliableReliance with exclusion of the Compensation of #LandLosers & #PropertyOwners cheated & deped by #MNAmbani +RIL .Why Mukesh should dislike NDA & Modi ?

  4. I am at a loss to understand why you should play second fiddle to Modiji (As Modi focuses on the poor, the rich are powerless and fearful). Rich are becoming richer while poor are turning poorer while not to speak of the so-called middle class, who are on tenterhooks sitting with their fingers crossed as to they are bogged with plethora of problems. That’s the real picture now.
    Not only Delhi and Mumbai are like two different nations, many states across the country are alieniated from the capital and the PM. In my sixty years, I haven’t come across such a PM with saffronised vision only to promote the party rather than caring for the people. Never ever attempt to portray such things Guptaji. I had the highest regard when you were in Indian Express.

  5. If Shekhar Gupta writes then don’t expect anything good about Modi and his government. He is a paid leftist and Congress’ite and his likes are trying to destabilise the country by instigating the public sitting on the fence.
    Wonder why are there so many agitation all across the country? Even the Dalits are rising. They have more than what they deserve and still they revolt…… amazing.
    This is the power of money which Congress (Sonia) is using against Modi. This was quite evident, as in one of the discussions on a TV channel when she outright mentioned that she has no plans to slow down against Modi and his government. She knows that if 2019 comes back to power in 2019, she and her likes will certainly be in deep trouble over National Herald, 2G, coalgate, and many more.
    With all the raids….. who is most effected? Obviously the old guard who have been looting this country and the countrymen of its resources…….! Hence they are orchestrating and getting all the trouble trying to destabilise the present government.
    Just analyse the whole situation with a unbiased mind and visualise what is going all around all of a sudden. How is it possible that everything is on boil in the country ……

  6. That Gupta is a Congress sympathiser is well known. This article, biased as it is, is totally beyond my expectations in its anti-Modi tirade. Businessmen and lobbyists have been looting India for many years now. They are unable to wield as much power after Mr Modi’s arrival in the “Republic of Delhi” may or may not affect their capacity to shape policy in Delhi. Shekhar Gupta, were he to speak at a rally for Congress, would root very highly for the Dalits who were neglected only after Mr Modi’s arrival. So much hypocricy !!

  7. I wonder if it is the GOVERNMENT’S JOB TO RID THE CORRUPTION IN PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS. If ICICI bank has not complained about he nexus between its officers and Videocon, is it the business of Finance ministry or CBI to worry? CBI has enough work within public sector and Government offices to clean up.
    This is turning out to be “Maximum Government and Maximum Governance”

  8. A very well written article.
    I think Government has to make the business people more comfortable and give them good support and fearless environment.
    Because big businesses give employment and revenue to government.
    By supporting poor at the cost of business houses and businessmen will not help and will drive economy in further mess.
    So by reviving economy by relaxing norms and removing hurdles from doing business will help government and the economy . Also poor can be well taken care of.
    Poor and rich cannot be separated. Both have to be taken care of as both are dependent on each other.
    This is basic. Inspector Raj and income tax raids will not help.

  9. Poverty alleviation by 2022 only possible through Corporate equity donations /dilution to a Poverty Fund of 11crore poor families (list getting ready by 2nd Oct) and Black Money in Assets Transactions ploughed to the fund by Executive order/Government notifications, an extension of PMGKY FUND such as RGSY FUND see details on Google, search –
    Jagdip Merchant

  10. The author doesn’t understand Mumbai at all, innit? That’s to go with his utter lack of understanding of Delhi. Or Modi. Or economy. Or hardship. Or issues with the Muslim minority. Modi has helped and shielded Adani, Ambani & his other pals from Gujarat adequately. Shielded and fattened their purses, so please don’t call him the anti corruption Messiah, or pro poor. Your inability to see Mumbai beyond Peddar Road & Nariman Point stretch is the root of this misleading article. One or two conversations with Old Money don’t make a theory, so stop presuming. Modi’s neither good at regulation of the rich nor is he good at helping those he ought to be helping. Just because the script ain’t going your way, doesn’t mean you distort reality so badly. I must add to the above list – lack of understanding of capitalism. And utter lack of empathy in not understanding: everyone beyond the poor-little-rich is not the Poor, begging govt to do something for them. Indians make their own lives and destinies with hard work. This is not Delhi throwing alms. And India is not Delhi and Bombay.

    • Modi thought and I would by sympathetic to him for it, that the BJP could get away with raking in billions in campaign donations pre-2014 and then sell off State-owned assets as a “token of gratefulness” to his campaign donors at throwaway prices.

      OR, to just make it available for them, or rip off our taxes to help Anilbhai as in the Rafale deal which he will produce at 3 times the cost previously.

      The people of India, certainly a few parts of India are much more vocal about getting value for taxes. This had never been the case. And it’s a saddening comedy that Modi will now face the heat for his wretched cronyism by people who pay taxes, AND, actually care more for what is done with them!

  11. Sure, he’s done a good deal to help the economy.

    BUT, he has show tremendous interest to aid his home State at the cost of the taxes everyone pays in. The Rafale deal is a scam and now each jet would cost Rs. 1300 cr, from Rs. 400 cr previously. This, will be the taxes of the people. More importantly, SOUTHERN and WESTERN taxes who pay over 50% of the taxes, whose money is going down the drain.. as he sought to “help” Anilbhai Ambani.

    Obviously, the vegetarian terrorism and “Let’s make Hindi great again” campaigns have nearly brought the nation to the point of secession!

    If only, he could tone down the tyranny, and just focus on personal and economic openness — can I really laud Modi. Modi’s not the fault perhaps, but the BJP more.

    Certainly, getting basic courts, police and laws to work, at the cost of being told what to eat and speak, is unacceptable.

    Our states can fix our economies by ourselves were we to be a separate entity. But would not be bowing to identity dictates really.

  12. Indians are thieves from peon to president for the last 70 years. Now they find it difficult to steal. They don’t want to pay their taxes. Hence angry with Modi. I see many educated thieves also express their disappointment with being forced to comply. Now they are willing to vote the corrupt state and central dynasties. By May 2019 situation will show Modi s win ability in spite of anti incumbency.

  13. I see this as a tribute to this Govt. Though Gupta still tries to fault it for “over correction”! Govt has taken tough decisions st the cost of its popularity. A case in point is levying tax on gold. Did not buckle even under great pressure and shutdown by the industry.

  14. Shekharji doesn’t show much insight, he is more an armchair thinker that an astute analytic. He is best only when he tells insider stories.
    But what kind of innuendo is it:
    “Second, and I say it with great care, where India’s old capitalism comes from, there isn’t much love lost for Muslims and never mind that “my best friends are Muslim”. So, can we now have a government that will be pro-business and also show the Muslims their place?” I am on this accusation of bias based on religion. Does he really speak from inside knowledge or rambling his favourite theries? At least nothing of such knowledge is there in public domain.
    About the tenor of the article, less said is better. Gaffe. Modi is no angel. Lobbying doesn’t work? How do you think BJP runs all its business, more of murky business? From the salaries of Modi & Shah? Does he say that the whole lot of party hoppers came to BJP because they love the beard style of Modi & Shah? What about the tweaks that BJP introduced in political party funding rules? And Modi is pro-poor? Haha! He is just an election winning machine, ready to do, say all things if that helps in winning elections. Just a big showman who seems capable of overturning the good old saying on its head “You can’t fool all people all the time”!!

  15. Mr Couptaji is eagerly and very much impatiently asking corporates to fund his current lies spreading journalism thru #ThePrint. But due to strict vigilance by current n odi govt, no corparates are funding him hence he is saying that current corporates are fearful. Pitty.

  16. If the corporate India is so worried, there is a good reason. Almost every big business has borrowed crores of rupees and the government can ask them tough questions about that. To present itself as a pro poor government, it may even hurt a few businesses. The author doesn’t say anything surprising. However, I really admire him for his almost-neutral point of view on most things. He is one of the very few who avoid being foolishly serious about being liberal or conservative.

    • Indians know nothing of liberal or conservative. The North understands the value of the Cow and stone-worship, while the South would rather dwell time in dynastic parties wanting to set up sweat-shops in the State or some caste wars and vote-buying.

      Stupid to get this in here.

  17. This country does not deserve honest and hard working leaders who put the interest of country first. Initially (first couple of his years of his tenure) Modi was blamed as pro-corporate by the disingenuous dolt RaGa and media and commentators lapped it up. Now the likes of Shekar Gupta blame Modi to be anti-corporate. All this with no evidence in support of either! Neither the people nor the media showed half concern when successive past governments failed the people of the country since independence. The cult of Cong leaders starting from Nehru, his daughter and grandson was thrust upon the nation and it was rarely questioned. But the same country is impatient, immature and unreasonable in expecting Modi govt. to fix all malaise afflicting this country in one term. People are slinging criticism without taking practicality into consideration. There is little acknowledgement of what he has done and what he is trying to do, but there is a galore of criticism of what he hasn’t delivered or hasn’t been able to deliver. One does not know if the exceedingly high expectations people have on Modi are a sign of his stature or the unreasonableness and stupidity of our people.

    • Excellent comment. Well said! I wrote the same thing when people wanted Jaitley sacked a year ago and wanted Haryani “We will ban Amazon, carpet flag makers” Sushma in his place.

      What a shame if the govt. goes down if people think a lawful society is too irritating.

  18. Wow, this article presents so lopsided view of world. Really don’t understand this pain. People who had privileged access to credit, tax, policies et all now have to play fair and by the rules!!! No wonder they are against Modi and conversely Modi is so popular.

  19. Is it the powerlessness or fearfulness that is pouring in the party finding to his party? To hide such funding making an opaque route of electoral bonds? Is it that making the assets of the rich grow at a faster pace, Increasing the inequality? is it that which taught some the art of leaving the country? Chowkidar is paid for his duty sir. Focusing on poor is what? Not explaining why one has to stay with hunger due to to his fancy thought of demonetization even after 500 days? Or for empowering with pakoda rozgar?

  20. Shekhar Gupta’s sad story of the plea of the poor wealthy and powerful businessmen brought tears in my eyes. How will they be able to continue to rule and loot the country uninterrupted. How will they be able to run away with billions of taxpayer’s money. The demonatization and GST has affected the common man more than rich businessmen. Then why are you whining?

  21. As a middle class citizen paying taxes honestly and not getting any benefits from goi, no change in my life despite any govt in state or centre. I need the foll answers, 1: why our taxes went up. 2: why different rules for different people eg neeshal modi son in law of ambani clan not in wanted list3: why people of likes of anil ambani get defense contracts whereas hal was created as a captive defense player by govt 4: What sambit patra n others bring to tabkd that they are made directors of Ongc n other psu? 5: how bjp benefited from demo? And host of others

  22. Dear Guptaji,

    We know that none of the journalists in India is neutral; every one sides with one party or the other.

    The question to you is:

    Should the Govt work for the corporate or for the poor? Let anything be the driving factor but due to those issues if the Govt is forced to uplift the poor then what’s the problem?

    The latest ICICI issue – the entire system has been built over the years for the educated and the powerful, to cheat.

    An observation: never before I have seen bureaucrats coming into media and speaking to people on the strategy and steps unlike before it was always the politicians (ex: Planning commission).

    Let me tell you corporate overview on this Govt is mixed for sure but not unlike what you try to project – completely against!


  23. Funny argument Gupta ji! The reality is that Modi knew in 2014 only that Corporate India is going to ask for return gifts once he becomes PM. Fact remains he tried but has not been able to repay. Meanwhile Modi also knows to win a re-election he needs to spend a lot on welfare schemes. That needs revenue for govt. That’s why we had demonetization which Modi believed would get his govt windfall gains of few lakh crores (as unreturned 500/1000 value notes). But the greedy experiment failed. Infact, the foolish experimented added cost to govt exchequer rather than giving govt any benefit. Next predicament, Modi was forced to bring GST to benefit formal economy at the cost of huge informal economy. Now Modi has nothing to fall back on in economic terms that’s why aggressive Hindutva card. Corporate India will try to extract more from Modi policies further & asap. Corporate must be investing on both BJP Congress for 2019 polls hoping to continue its extraction through who so ever comes to power next.

  24. Shekhar Gupta you are an apologist for corporate India, Everything you say has to be taken with a pinch of salt.People like you are a burden the nation cannot afford.

  25. Modi, working for the poor??!! What, and with whom were you drinking the previous night Shekar? He will try and take their vote and dump them.

  26. People are finally seeing the great betrayal of the Nation .

    Those who cried wolf was scoffed at but now that the after wolf set about the expectant supporters they have realised .

  27. Very skewed article and lopsided arguments. We all know how business men paid 1/10th of the taxes, if at all. Good corporates are thriving and it will be good if others align with a new normal where taxes need to be paid and loans repaid. Why blame Modi for it?

  28. The uneducated tirade by Rag Pot accusing BJP & Modi of Suit, Boot wrote the narrativ for Modi’s first term. He has managed to keep everyone interested by investing heavily into sectors that are now ready to propel economy to next stage.

    • Atool must not be surprised if the country starts propelling in different directions with the intolerable tyrannies of his “make them like me” cow-worshippers in power. Mahesh Sharma as culture minister? Uttar pradesh is such an intolerable place.

  29. Modi is friend of neither the rich nor the poor.He cares just for himself and n consolidating his power aimed at ushering in the Hindu Rashtra of his dreams as a RSS Pracharak.

  30. As the poor, also the middle class, a little difficult to define, head to the polling booths one year from now, the one question they will be asking themselves is, How much better off am I now than in 2014 ? The answer would keep any incumbent awake at night.

  31. India’s economic troubles, linked to the world’s, started in 2008. The immediate fiscal and monetary stimulus – one wishes it had been Mr Chidambaram, not Pranabda, in the finance ministry – staved off immediate disaster but may have done more harm than good. To that extent, the present government can claim they inherited a troubled economy, including the incipient problem of NPAs. However, four years is a long time, virtually the entire term of an incumbent. 2. For reasons that remain incomprehensible, nothing responsible, gifted, far sighted, visionay was done to restore the economy to health and higher growth. Absent that, there is no other way to sustain high popularity ratings, keep winning elections. Neither rich poor, nor Hindu Muslim will work. When a camp follower like Minhaz Merchant predicts 180, we have to sit up.

  32. WHat a load of crap. Modi is in reliances back pocket, Modi doesn’t care about the nation or its people, he’s just filling up his wallet. Modi was the worse thing to happen to India

  33. If Modi has lost the opportunity, it is because he has failed to build a good team, and also bring out the most important change that was needed to build India as a progressive democracy, which is that elected members, including the PM, should be open to public questioning at periodic intervals, through press conferences and briefings. Many heads of states in some of the most progressive democracies show their dislike for the Press, but do NOT (and cannot) avoid taking direct questions from it. But by treating the Press like a pariah Modi is losing a great opportunity to leave a wonderful legacy and also to display his constructive thought process, and in the process, running the risk of alienating many segments on the electoral spectrum. It is disappointing to note Mallaya, Nirav and CBSE exam paper leaks (despite the Q&A interaction between the PM and students). Has anything changed? Even for his big fans (and that includes me), what seemed like a grand vision in the early days of this government is turning out to be narcissistic monologue, and its actions as knee-jerk impulses.

    • So you want useless debates to hype things. The people on the ground if they see they have been benefited they would vote for him otherwise they would vote congress. Whats a big fuss about this.

  34. R u serious? Nirav Modi, Malya and other have flyed away from India without any fear and Malya is married again and u r saying that riches are feared and u r saying that statement. What the shit. I think u r a government’s tool

    • First of all you have to understand a difference between a Company and a individual. A company is represented by a board of directors and not a single individual. If a company defaults or bankrupts then there is a law that has to take its course and you cannot a attack that individual alone unless he has done some criminal activity. This is the same law across any country. And there is a extradition treaty needs to be signed with the countries they are residing to bring them out. Its not as easy as one may think on the ground.

  35. wonderfully stated Mr Gupta.
    As a huge fan of Modi and confidence he instilled when he took over as the PM, I feel bad that he is losing a huge opportunity.

  36. A big challenge for the average citizen is who to believe. The press seems to have failed. Look at TV channels and their anchors on any political news and their individual prejudices come thru. So it is even with this write up. Conclusion..I like stories that stay with the facts and fo my own interpretation.

    • why to believe this or that. Just experience whether you are benefited or not. If you are not benefited then vote for Congress if you are benefited vote for BJP simple.

  37. Modi essentially remains a friend of the rich, corrupt and self centered ones who can go to any extent to achieve their goals. So the unusually large number of businessmen leaving the country with poorman’s white money as Modi gets himself photographed abroad with the same looters. Modi can only pretend to be a friend of the poor, dalits or minorities only for the sake of votes.

    • How can poor man can contribute money. Then he is not poor for sure. Correct yourself first to say its the man who pay taxes. Again the people who left are willful offenders and cannot continue business as usual first and they have to fight battles. Its not kept under the carpet as it was in UPA times. it came out now and they have to face the music

  38. I was going through depression BUT after reading this 21st Century’s biggest ever joke, I can’t control my laughing….

    • if you have been in business you would have known how many raids have been happening. Even the legend Saravana Stores who have not been touched by any government got raided two weeks back by the Income tax authorities

      • Incorrect.
        There was a bomb scare and management had to clear the shoppers without raising a panic and so they gave a plausible reason: IT Raid


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