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Nobody joins him, people just cheer: Rajiv, MD of Bajaj Auto, on father Rahul Bajaj

Rahul Bajaj raised his concerns over lack of freedom of speech when it comes to criticising the BJP-led govt.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 02, 2019, 08.53 AM IST
Rajiv Bajaj
Rajiv Bajaj wonders whether a corporate event is the right forum to raise sensitive issues.
On many occasions, the views of Rajiv Bajaj, the managing director of Bajaj Auto and his father cum boss, chairman Rahul Bajaj are not on the same page. They often agree to disagree. While Bajaj senior’s comments at ET awards has garnered a lot of headlines, Rajiv was less enthused. Edited excepts from an interview to Satish John.

Rahul Bajaj, Bajaj Auto chairman’s remarks on Saturday evening has attracted a lot of attention. How do you see this?
Well a durbar to him (Rahul Bajaj) is like a red carpet to a bull!

He revels in such an opportunity. Though personally I’m not sure of the relevance of raising such a sensitive and subjective issue at a public function to celebrate corporate excellence.

Yes, he has always been uncommonly courageous in this respect and people do admire him for it.

Yet I also remember reading somewhere that ‘courage is knowing that it may hurt and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same. And that’s what makes life hard’.

That’s why nobody joins him; they conveniently cheer from the sidelines.

He mentioned that the government is sensitive to criticism, unlike the UPA government. You have also been critical of the government in the past whether it was demonetisation or the deadline set for EVs. Did your group or you face any retribution?

Given the nature of my business, my engagement with the government is fortunately limited. My most frequent interactions have been with Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog.

I’ve also had occasion to meet with Mr Nitin Gadkari and Mr Piyush Goyal on several occasions. As is well known, I’ve had my differences with them on certain important issues such as electric vehicle policy. Rarely what’s been said or how it’s been said has left a poor taste. That’s fine though as I suppose that I may have been guilty of the same as well. So it’s a fair exchange no robbery.

At a Nasscom event in February 2017 in Mumbai, I used demonetisation as an example to draw a distinction between the failure of an idea vs that of its execution.

That was misrepresented as a unilateral criticism of demonetisation.

So many well-wishers warned me that there would be trouble for me and for Bajaj Auto! Some even said that given their reputation for vindictiveness this government would now never approve of our quadricycle the Qute for which we’d been struggling for years. And in the context of which I’d made the made in India comment about made in India!

However, what happened was the exact opposite for coincidentally at the same time I’d requested appointments with Mr Kant and Mr Gadkari. I was immediately granted an audience, greeted warmly, heard patiently. and within a year we got approval for what had been stuck in government for 8 years.

Businessmen are wary of the income tax department. Enforcement Directorate and the heavy arm that the government has in prevailing over businesses. Do you think that’s unfair of the government to use agencies as they will?
Fortunately, I’ve personally never experienced this so I can’t relate to it.

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