Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal on Thursday claimed that business practices of industries in India were against national interest, The Hindu reported on Friday. Goyal specifically criticised the Tata Group while speaking at the Confederation of India Industry’s annual meeting.
The commerce and industry minister’s statement triggered a controversy, after which the trade association took down a 19-minute video of his address from its YouTube channel.
Goyal, in his address, expressed disappointment about the Tata Group’s opposition to rules that he claimed the Centre had framed to benefit consumers, The Hindu reported, citing recordings from the event. “Me, myself, my company – we all need to go beyond this approach,” the minister said.
The minister was apparently referring to Tata’s objection to some of the e-commerce rules announced in June. Under the proposed rules, e-commerce firms have to ensure that enterprises related to them are not classified as sellers on their respective websites, according to Reuters.
Tata Group had opposed this provision, saying that if it is implemented, American coffee chain Starbucks, its joint venture partner in India, will not be able to offer its products on Tata’s website, as first reported by Reuters in July.
Goyal lashed out at the Tata Group over this. “A company like yours, maybe you bought one or two foreign companies, now their importance is greater than national interest?” he said. Banmali Agrawala, Tata Sons’ president for infrastructure, aerospace and defence, was also at the meet according to The Hindu.
The Union minister challenged Tata Steel to try and sell its products to “nationalistic” countries like Korea and Japan.
“When we [the Bharatiya Janata Party] talk of the nationalistic spirit, many in the media call us orthodox and backward,” Goyal was quoted as saying by The Hindu. “Nobody in Japan, Korea calls this backward.”
Referring to foreign direct investment, the minister said: “At least you [Indian industries] should resist the greed of these foreigners. You are welcome to do good, honest business. But in wrongdoings… when I read names that have entered partnerships with anyone and everyone.”
Some Opposition leaders have criticised Goyal’s remarks.
“By making this statement, Piyush Goyal has mocked PM’s slogan ‘Ease of doing business in India’,” Congress leader Jaiveer Shergill tweeted. “BJP ministers confusing ‘Govt andhbhakti’ [blind faith] with ‘deshbhakti’ [patriotism] while pretending to be franchise holders of Nationalism.”
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra said: “Union Minister’s unhinged rant at CII meeting. Pressure of working in an underperforming one man show must really be getting to them.”
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said Goyal’s remarks were “shameful”. “CII [Confederation of India Industry] should demand an apology instead of helping him by pulling down the video,” she said. “Stand up to bullying.”
Former bureaucrat Anil Swarup was among those who backed Goyal. “I don’t think this is correct,” he said. “Such a sweeping statement, ‘Industry practices are against national interest’, wouldn’t have been made by a seasoned Minister, Piyush Goyal. Hope the correct version comes out soon.”