Congress’ Lok Sabha candidate for Mumbai South, Milind Deora, responded to the recent brouhaha over a campaign video featuring industrialist Mukesh Ambani.
The Reliance Industries chairman had publicly endorsed Deora, which had raised eyebrows in political circles.
Dismissing the ‘selective focus’ on Ambani, Deora, while speaking to The Quint, said:
"“You are selectively focusing on one individual (Ambani) for news value... I don’t work as per news value. South Mumbai is a major economic hub of the country. Right from local shopkeepers to big industrialists, many have supported me.”" -
He also said that the biggest problem facing the country today was unemployment.
“While unemployment is considered to be an economic issue as of now... it can soon become a political or a national issue. Which is why, it is imperative that we support small and medium businesses,” he added.
In the now viral video, tweeted by Deora from his Twitter handle, Ambani can be heard saying, "Milind is the man for South Bombay."
"Having represented South Bombay for 10 years, I believe Milind has in-depth knowledge of the social, economic and cultural ecosystem of the South Bombay constituency," Ambani adds.
From small shopkeepers to large industrialists - for everyone, South Mumbai means business.— Milind Deora (@milinddeora) April 17, 2019
We need to bring businesses back to Mumbai and make job creation for our youth a top priority.#MumbaiKaConnection pic.twitter.com/d4xJnvhyKr
But there is more to this story than meets the eye.
Does Ambani’s Backing of Deora Spell Trouble for BJP?
Ambani’s public endorsement of a political candidate in itself is “unprecedented,” a political expert told The Quint.
The fact that it was for a Congress candidate in the midst of a general election only adds to the potential impact of the seemingly innocuous campaign video.
The support behind Deora is likely to raise eyebrows within the ruling dispensation’s camp, for a public endorsement of an Opposition candidate by the leading industrialist in the country – as PM Narendra Modi seeks a second term – is certainly “a cause for concern,” the expert added.
This can be gleamed from the chatter on social media, with known BJP proponents – like BlueKraft founder Akhilesh Mishra – criticising Ambani’s decision.
Is this first instance of an industrialist of scale of Mukesh Ambani openly seeking votes for a political party, in this case Rahul Gandhi's Congress?Also, if Mr. Ambani, after weighing the optics,has still chosen to come out in open for Congress, what has been doing from behind?— Chowkidar Akhilesh Mishra (@amishra77) April 18, 2019
However, the fact that the Deoras and the Ambanis have had close ties for a long time, the expert added, offers an alternate explanation.
Ambani’s father, Dhirubhai, had famously backed Deora’s father, Murli, and their close ties had been a hot topic for discussion in political circles. This, then, can perhaps explain Ambani’s decision.
But Ambani is not the only corporate honcho seen in the video that is being seen as a nod to Deora’s ‘pro-development’ campaign pitch. Uday Kotak, Managing Director of Kotak Mahindra Bank, also features in the video.
Ambani’s endorsement also assumes added significance given the recent onslaught launched by the party’s president, Rahul Gandhi, on Ambani’s brother Anil over his role in the alleged Rafale scam.
The elder brother, Mukesh, had just last month bailed Anil out by paying off his Rs 458 crore dues to Ericsson, saving him from possible jail time.
Deora, meanwhile, is fighting in close quarters with Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant in Mumbai South, which goes to polls on 29 April.
‘Jumping Off a Sinking Ship’, or a ‘Finger In Every Pie’?
Many users on Twitter reacted to Ambani’s endorsement, claiming that it foretold a change in the political winds.
‘Mukesh Ambani’s open support for Congress candidate Milind Deora is both: a hint in which direction the wind is blowing and an apparent attempt to mend ways with the new government: he knows Rahul Gandhi’s Congress is not old Congress. https://t.co/uh6az7WKW7— Samar (@Samar_Anarya) April 18, 2019
The Mukesh Ambani - Uday Kotak open endorsement could swing it for Milind Deora in the home stretch... Mumbai South going down the wire... Malabar Hill & Colaba will decide whether it is Sena or Cong... will be a humdinger— arun giri (@arungiri) April 18, 2019
Mukesh Ambani & Uday Kotak endorse Milind Deora. I wonder if it's a constituency specific move or if the Congress-RIL friendship is back. For more on history of RIL's relationship with Congress & BJP, read this old piece by @rohini_sgh. https://t.co/KQNYAH43NG https://t.co/uUmDmJRZTc— Chandra R. Srikanth (@chandrarsrikant) April 18, 2019
#EveryVoteForModi? Or #ChowkidarChorHai. Looks like PM Modi has met his Waterloo in this election. Mukesh Ambani's endorsement of Milind Deora is a clear indication that the Modi govt is losing this election big time. Businessmen knows which way the wind is blowing,defeat Modi.— benoydharmarajan (@benoydharmaraja) April 18, 2019
King of our country (for all practical purposes), Mukesh Ambani in a video appeal along with other business owners asked Bombay peeps to vote for Congress candidate Milind Deora. Are they jumping off the sinking ship? Or maybe just keeping their hands everywhere.— prateeq (@prateeqkumar) April 18, 2019
(This story was originally published on 18 April. It has been updated with Milind Deora’s inputs on 29 April.)
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