New Delhi: ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta spoke about two major developments in episode 685 of Cut the Clutter. First, the results of the Punjab municipal elections and second, crony capitalism in China — in the latter, he takes off from an earlier episode (649) where he had explained how Ant Group founder Jack Ma was cut to size by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Here, he explained why Xi Jinping went after Jack Ma.
Turning to Punjab, he said it was an important local civil body election due to the farmers’ agitation and also because of the separatist noises and forces, which are on the rise. He explained that medium and smaller cities in Punjab had voted in the municipal elections and it was a “stunning” result as Congress had almost a clean sweep. Gupta explained that the party was geared to win up to 90 per cent of the seats.
“This is something quite remarkable in Punjab,” he said, pointing out that the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was doing very badly but it could draw some comfort from the fact that the other two parties, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party, have been nearly wiped out.
Results of Punjab municipal elections
Speaking about the results of the municipal elections, Gupta said the farmers’ agitation was already beginning to have a big impact on the politics of Punjab, one year before state elections — despite the Congress government being there for a while, there was no anti-incumbency (based on these election results).
In BJP strongholds such as Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Hoshiarpur and other cities, the party had been thrashed, said Gupta. The election results told us a few things, he added — one, that many Hindus in Punjab, who comprised 40 per cent of the population, were now voting Congress. This was because they thought AAP to be a radical-Sikh-friendly party and because they did not trust the Akali Dal.
Second, that the break-up of the partnership between the BJP and the SAD was disadvantageous to both of them. Third, that there was a lot of anger among farmers in the state, especially the Sikh farmers. They were not willing to vote for the Akali Dal as they were partners of the BJP earlier and (they) didn’t yet see sufficient distance between the two.
Gupta explained that BJP was the “biggest loser” in the state and the AAP the “second biggest loser”.
He explained that the only political party that had leverage in the state was the Congress party and the lesson for Rahul Gandhi from this was that he should make full use of a powerful chief minister in the state, that is Captain Amarinder Singh, and not let his stronghold over the state go to waste.
Gupta also said that, electorally, while BJP is not worried about Punjab, it was more worried about the rising anger among Hindu Jats of Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and was thus doing everything to maintain that stronghold.
Crony capitalism in China
Turning to China, Gupta mentioned names besides Jack Ma, founder of Ali Baba, and Xi Jinping, who were important to understanding the crony capitalism in China. He singled out Lingling Wei, a journalist with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and had written about this subject.
Taking off from her article in the WSJ,, Gupta explained that Xi Jinping went after Jack Ma not only because of ego but also because of politics. He said: “Politics lies behind everything and behind politics lie deep insecurities. And that gives rise to crony capitalism.”
He explained that even before Jack Ma’s IPO, which never took place, the Chinese central government was already investigating Jack Ma’s companies, especially the ANT Group. This was because of his many investors and friends who were actually people in Chinese political culture, called ‘princelings’. ‘Princelings’, Gupta explained, were the sons, daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandchildren of former bosses of the Chinese Communist Party who made a lot of money.
Xi Jinping was worried that many ‘princelings’ would make billions from Jack Ma’s IPO and this would challenge or, could potentially, pose a threat to his power even though Jinping had cut many of these ‘princelings’ down to size.
Gupta explained more about the ANT Group, its subsidiaries and those who own equities in the company. He said close friends of Jack Ma had invested in the Ant Group and were called the Shanghai faction. And it was these fellow partners of Jack Ma which made Xi Jinping insecure. Jack Ma was already a larger than life figure and if he became any bigger, Jinping thought he could pose a challenge to him.
Gupta concluded by describing the two sides to crony capitalism: “One is when you’re helping your cronies grow. But the flip side of the same crony capitalism is when you block the growth of those you don’t like or you don’t see as friends.”
Watch full episode here: