Industrialist Rahul Bajaj's lament that there was an environment of fear in the country and people were afraid to criticise the government has triggered an avalanche of reactions on social media, once again highlighting the fractious nature of discourse amid growing partisanship.
As the hashtag #RahulBajaj became one of the top trends on Twitter on Sunday, critics of the Bajaj Group chairman's comments piled on to social media to say that the very fact he said what he did proved his observations were without any basis.
Bajaj, addressing Shah at the Economic Times Awards function on Saturday where the home minister was the chief guest, had said that people were afraid to criticise the government as they don't have the confidence that it will be appreciated and this had led to an atmosphere of fear. Bajaj also said people were free to criticize anyone during the UPA era. Also present at the event were Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal.
Responding to Bajaj, Shah underlined that the very fact that Bajaj had asked this question was evidence that people are not afraid of asking questions. Shah asserted that even though the alleged atmosphere of fear was a bogeyman, the government will take steps to improve the atmosphere.
Others too were quick to point out the fallacies in Bajaj's argument.
@AbhishBanerj, questioned Bajaj's contention that UPA allowed criticism. "U made ur comments straight to face of BJP President Amit Shah. Show me video of u criticizing Cong President Sonia Gandhi to her face. In fact, show me any media article (2004-2014) that criticized Sonia," he tweeted.
Really,Rahul Bajaj?— Abhishek (@AbhishBanerj) December 1, 2019
During UPA,folks could criticize anybody they wanted?
U made ur comments straight to face of BJP President Amit Shah
Show me video of u criticizing Cong President Sonia Gandhi to her face
In fact, show me any media article (2004-2014) that criticized Sonia
Akhilesh Mishra, CEO, BlueKraft Digital Foundation, highlighted the contrast between Bajaj's comments and that of Kunal Bahl, Snapdeal's co-founder and CEO, who stated that "There is no better time to be an entrepreneur in India (than now)."
"One way to look at it is to see who is complaining (beneficiaries of old system of license raj, free money without accountability) compared to who is excited," Mishra added.
"There is no better time to be an entrepreneur in India (than now)."— Akhilesh Mishra (@amishra77) December 1, 2019
There is lot of talk around #RahulBajaj statement.
One way to look at it is to see who is complaining (beneficiaries of old system of license raj, free money without accountability) compared to who is excited. pic.twitter.com/3rmQmnhiK0
Bajaj while posing the question to Shah, had said that it was difficult for him to praise anyone.
In response, Amit Malviya, BJP's IT Cell in-charge, posted a video of Bajaj praising former Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
‘It is difficult for me to praise anyone’, said Rahul Bajaj except off course if it is Rahul Gandhi.— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) November 30, 2019
Wear your political affiliation on your sleeve and don’t hide behind inanities like there is atmosphere of fear and all that... pic.twitter.com/2JeyBzkfp8
Some users also highlighted that fact that Rahul Bajaj has been an open and vocal critic of the current government without any reprisal.
2015-Rahul Bajaj targets Narendra Modi govt, says ‘shine wearing off’.— Avantika T. 🇮🇳 (@DrAVSriv) December 1, 2019
2017-Rajiv Bajaj hits out at Modi govt, says note ban caused de-growth, job losses
2019-Bajaj Father-Son Duo Hits out at Modi Government Over Slowdown, EV Policy Flip-Flop
What more “OPENNESS”does he want? https://t.co/0NZmapW9g8
Bajaj was, however, not without his share of admirers.
"I feel so proud of what #RahulBajaj has done," tweeted @ReallyHassan.
I feel so proud of what #RahulBajaj has done. He’s probably one of the few who haven’t sold their souls yet to the devil. Wish other industrialists had the gumption that he does.pic.twitter.com/Xma2iOBj3G— Hassan (@ReallyHassan) December 1, 2019
"Simply brave of Rahul Bajaj to openly criticize Amit Shah on various fronts. From 'Godse' to 'creating an environment of fear' everything was put forward valiantly," @NihalKirnall posted.
Simply brave of Rahul Bajaj to openly criticize Amit Shah on various fronts.— Nihal Kirnalli (@NihalKirnalli) December 1, 2019
From "Godse" to "creating an environment of fear" everything was put forward valiantly.
Salute! #HamaraBajaj pic.twitter.com/tjdtqlij3L