It’s officially a bandwagon when the country’s richest man is on it. Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani expounded on the theme of an economically divided India on Tuesday. Speaking to a gathering of Indian businessmen and top officials on Tuesday, Mukesh Ambani, chair of Reliance Industries Ltd., was found to be riding the India-not-so-shining car, offering listeners an idealistic speech that called for industry to work to unite the “two Indias.”
The narrative of an India that has been cleaved into two nations—one rich and one poor—has been gaining strength ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party lost the 2004 election, which it fought on a platform of “India Shining.” The aam aadmi, or common man, who comprises the majority of the electorate wasn’t dazzled by the slogan. Now, it’s rare to find a gabfest, political or business, that doesn’t mention this national schism between those who have gained from India’s economic growth and those who haven’t.
“There can be no peace if a billion-plus people are discontented,” said Mr. Ambani speaking in Delhi at the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry. “The India story is unsustainable…without including these millions in our progress.” Mr. Ambani spoke of the “two narratives” of India, one that sees the country from the “stratosphere,” “exults” about its growth and romanticizes its democracy, sounding uncannily like Pankaj Mishra talking about Patrick French’s new book about the country. The other narrative “imagines the growth engine as a heartless monster” that leaves large numbers of Indians behind.