The Gujarat Assembly elections drew varying reactions from a wide range of social groups. One community that has, however, kept relatively quiet are those dependent on businesses.
Gujarat is known for its entrepreneurship, and the business community have had a lot to talk about of late thanks to the Narendra Modi government's demonetisation drive as well as a hastily implemented goods and service tax regime.
The state has been voting the Bharatiya Janata Party to power for over two decades. This time 'round the Congress managed to put up a spirited fight. Naturally, curiosity levels are high though everybody couldn't express it openly.
A lot will depend on who win the polls and here's a list of five top industrial houses and their promoters who would keep their fingers crossed:
1) Gautam Adani
Chairman of the Adani Group, he shot to fame when the world came to know that Modi used Adani's personal jet for his election campaigns. With interests in sectors such as energy, ports, power transmission, mining and special economic zones, he owns one of the biggest industrial houses of India. He was Gandhi's first target, among industrial houses of India, over corruption. In fact, PM Modi has been so jittery about his relations with the Adani group that he recently said that his government works for the poor and not “Adani and Ambanis”.
2) Anil Ambani
The chairman of the Reliance ADAG group is of Gujarati origin and has been facing the storm over his inability to services thousands of crores worth of dues to his lenders. Recently, Gandhi targeted the Modi government over the French company Dassault and Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence's joint venture, that bagged the order to supply fighter jets to India at a cost that was revised upward.
Though, Anil Ambani at one time was considered to be close to the Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh, which was a close ally of the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, a sudden attack on his business interests from the Congress makes him vulnerable. His company had recently announced the launch of its first two Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs) at their shipyard in Pipavav, Gujarat.
3) Sudhir Mehta
Chairman emeritus of Torrent Pharma, he along with his brother Sameer Mehta is known to be very close to PM Modi. In 2003, when India's largest industry chamber Confederation of Indian Industry criticised Narendra Modi, who was then the chief minister of Gujarat, for the anti-Muslim riots in the state, the Mehta brothers came to the former's defence. Later CII was forced to apologise and the company has been doing extremely well since the rise of Modi at the centre.
Though, the opposition has not attacked the Torrent group or the Mehta brothers so far, but it is a fact well known that the company's promoters are considered to be closer to the BJP than Congress.
It is also visible in the donations made by the company to the two major political parties of the country. According to Moneycontrol.com, Torrent Power donated more than Rs 13 crore to the BJP between 2011-12 and 2015-16 as against Rs 5 crore to the Congress in the same period.
4) Ratan Tata
The legend says, when Tata Motors was forced out of West Bengal from setting up its Tata Nano plant, Modi, then Gujarat's chief minister, sent a text message to Ratan Tata, saying “Welcome”. Very soon, the company set up its manufacturing plant at Sanad.
While Tata Nano never lived up the hype associated with it as the world's smallest car, of late it became the source of Gandhi's jibe at the Gujarat government in the election campaign. “Rs 33,000 crore was given for Nano, but I haven't seen a single Nano in the past 10-15 days. I've been looking for one but couldn't find it,” said Rahul while addressing Navsarjan Yatra in Gujarat's Vapi, recently.
If Gandhi's Congress comes to power, his party will have to be seen doing something about the states subsidy to the Tata Group.
5) Ruia Brothers
The owners of the Essar group, Ravi and Shashi Ruia, too have landed in trouble as the Congress recently alleged that the ruling BJP government in Gujarat had let four private companies – Adani, ESSAR, Tata and China Light Power – to “squander” Rs 26,000 crore of the public money.
The opposition party claimed that BJP purchased electricity from these four companies at exorbitantly high rates terming the deal a 'power purchase scam'.
One would recall the rise of Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi's political circles by accusing Anil Ambani-owned BSES of unjustifiably increasing power tariffs every year. After coming to power, Kejriwal ensured that the power distribution companies were hesitant in demanding a hike in power tariffs.
Similarly, a Congress government in power may ensure that power companies in Gujarat, including Essar, may be forced to revise their tariffs downwards.
All in all, Congress strategy is clear – wooing the small traders by targeting the big industrial names. It is the anti-thesis of the GST and the Gujarat model narrative that the ruling BJP takes credit for.