Fatal Judgement

BY SUNIL DANG

We all know that there exists a deep historical connect between the state & the business class. Both have enjoyed a decent rapport & bonding over decades of interdependence. This was amplified by none other than Gandhi in his 1931 address to the 4th Annual meeting of FICCI, where he commended the role of nationalist business in the Indian freedom movement.  Leaders like Nehru, Patel, Shastri, Indira & others have pro-actively encouraged the wealthy to fund India’s growth whilst discouraging their active role & participation in mainstream politics. The result was that we could see a G D Birla magnify his empire effortlessly to every nook & cranny of this country & outside & yet stay away from the trappings of power that came with promoting a particular political ideology; something that could be at cross purposes of his business vision, acumen, & understanding.

The Congress & its ablest fund raiser, the erudite Vallabhai Patel could even use Birla’s goodwill on matters ranging from industrial policy to negotiating with multilateral financial organizations without the latter falling for the irresistible scent of power at the altar of business consolidation & expansion. But the trend has reversed in recent decades. We see one business tycoon after another falter at the unmarked field & track event called politics. When we do a sort of post-mortem of all such failed endeavours, that were otherwise immensely successful business fables, what we find is that the lure & intoxication of power has had the better of these boardroom masters, having been unable to keep their first love out of the harm’s way. It is baffling though, how such a doom’s day scenario couldn’t be avoided by these coveted addresses, when they had the best of both the worlds at their command.

Does that give us any insight or explain to us why a certain Anil Ambani, Subash Chandra, Vijay Mallya, Venugopal Dhoot & a few others of their ilk have fumbled in an alien arena, having been at sixes & sevens, while occupying the pride of place at the high table, inside the highest temple of democracy. Not that anybody expected their entry into either house of Parliament to radically alter the political discourse or make much contribution to nation building, but the fact remains that they could not make the most of the quid pro quo, having generously courted themselves to their political lobbyists all their life. They simply lost the plot, it seems.  Could it be that their devotion for one art, lead to a fledgling commitment towards the other? Maybe the zeal & ambition to make hay while the favourable sun shone brightly on them proved too big a morsel to swallow. This shall remain a mystery to most of us.

Successful businesses may not necessarily mean equal success in other fields too, or politics to be precise. More aptly, getting into politics by entrepreneurs does not imply an automatic geometrical progression of their businesses. Because if that were the case, then none of the legendary businesses should have faced such severe challenges to their existence as is being faced by people who have gotten into active politics of late. You cannot trust your political friends to either bail you out or treat you with velvet gloves, when your chin & chips are down. In an increasingly sensitive political environment, you shall yourself be responsible for the peril that you have brought onto your thriving empire. You should have been well guided to maintain an arm’s length from the political arena.

We can safely conclude that while every trade, every art & every sport has its own recipe for success, it is advisable to stick to your forts than risk everything in your quest to conquer others. Being an entrepreneur having worked your way up sweating, mixing this with the cocktail of politics can prove fatal.