‘First businessmen, now their agents in the RS’

Anil Ambani‘s decision to hitch his wagon to the Samajwadi Party and become a member of the Rajya Sabha was generally seen to have been one of the contributing factors to his split with Mukesh Ambani. Like their father Dhirubhai Ambani, Mukesh was rumoured to have been of the belief that, while political influence was important for the group’s business operations, there was little to be gained by openly aligning with political parties.

That bit of conventional wisdom has come unstuck in the week gone by. At least three Mukesh Ambani men—two of them (Parimal Nathwani and Y.P. Trivedi) wholetime directors of the elder Ambani’s Reliance Industries, and the third (former bureaucrat N.K. Singh) a visiting fellow at the Reliance-sponsored thinktank Observer Research Foundation—have entered the house of elders, drawing the support of BJP, NCP, JMM, JD(U), among other parties.

There is even talk that a fourth Mukesh Ambani candidate may sneak through, although one news channel which did a story on the Reliance link has reportedly been served a legal notice. With so many businessmen sneaking into the Upper House—think Vijay Mallya, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Rahul Bajaj, M.A.M. Ramaswamy, the late Lalit Suri, et al—and with so many parties helping them do so for not entirely political considerations, there were obvious questions to ask. Now, with their henchmen doing so, the circle it seems is complete.

In Jharkhand, Parimal Nathwani stood as an independent. Yet, according to unconfirmed reports, a number of cabinet ministers were willing and, in fact, did vote against the official UPA candidate while the chief minister himself abstained.

Harish Khare writes in The Hindu:

“Whether or not there was a quid pro quo, the critical aspect is that the industrialists have secured their passage with the cooperation, indulgence and votes of the established parties….

“The role of money in our public life has had a deleterious impact on the policy choices and moral integrity of political institutions. Apart from the aberrant case when an odd money-bag deemed it expedient to try to suborn the loyalty of a political or bureaucratic executive in order to sabotage or promote a policy, the business houses have over the years acquired a quasi-institutional voice for themselves. As the electoral process has become very expensive, the role and reach of money power has become all too obvious.

“However, it seems that the industrialists are no longer content with acquiring leverage in the political process by donating large sums of money during and between the election times. They seem now keen to pack the Upper House with their “men.” They want to have their agents in the middle of the action.”

Read the full story: One more invisible line crossed

Also read: Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor President