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Rediff.com  » Business » AAP's stand on FDI makes Silicon Valley jittery

AAP's stand on FDI makes Silicon Valley jittery

February 05, 2014 11:30 IST

“AAP has done a fabulous job highlighting corruption and governance issues and have a good platform for that, but their economic platform is very scary,” Venktesh Shukla, president, The Indus Entrepreneurs Silicon Valley, the largest TiE chapter, told Rediff.com. "Valley investors are watching India minutely; the next few months are very crucial for Silicon Valley investors."

The weeks-old Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi is making Silicon Valley entrepreneurs jittery, especially its plan to reverse the state’s earlier decision to allow foreign direct investment policy in multi-brand retail.

“AAP has done a fabulous job highlighting corruption and governance issues and have a good platform for that, but their economic platform is very scary,” Venktesh Shukla, president, The Indus Entrepreneurs Silicon Valley, the largest TiE chapter, told Rediff.com. ‘Valley investors are watching India minutely; the next few months are very crucial for Silicon Valley investors.’

Shukla believes the AAP is recycling the same old ideas in the name of the poor and planning moves that will keep them poor forever.

Pointing to party founder and now Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s policy on electricity distribution -- soon after coming to power he slashed electricity consumption prices -- Shukla says, “You don’t produce enough and you face hours of blackouts. Who suffers... not the rich because they have diesel generators, but the people who suffer the most are poor.”

“He (Kejriwal) recently said he does not want FDI in retail and most of the fruits and vegetables are destroyed in India because of the lack of cold storage facility leading to high prices of vegetables… People with capital and vested interest in putting together cold storage, air-conditioned trucks and delivery and distribution are big retailers and by keeping them out essentially what you are doing is you are protecting the inefficient vested interest today and that’s scary,’ Shukla said.

“At least (Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra) Modi has a record of governance. The party he represents has lots of fringe elements and that is scary, but if he could do what Atal Bihari Vajpayee did, which is to keep that fringe under control and focus on growth (there is hope).”

The AAP has also disappointed many Non Resident Indian supporters with its antics after coming to power, especially the midnight raid on Ugandan women. It heralded a Facebook page started in New Zealand called ‘I Am Sorry I Voted For AAP.’

Pran Kurup, spokesperson, AAP US, an entrepreneur, and former president of the Silicon Valley Indian Professionals Association, told Rediff.com, “You can’t please everyone all the time. But we think that such people are a minority and will eventually come around. We just raised Rs 18 lakh (Rs 1.8 million or $28,800) in a single day on Republic day, which is the second highest daily record after Rs 40 lakh (Rs 4 million or $64,000) on New Years Day.”

“We have a flood of volunteers wanting to help in everything from governance to campaigning for the Lok Sabha (election). At the Republic Day event in Fremont, California, we had over 75 new volunteers sign up.”

On the FDI debate, he points to experts like Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz who have warned that FDI in retail will result in exploitation of the labour force and promote corruption.

“In a country like India where exploitation of labour is common and corruption is rampant, how can one disregard such advice,” Kurup asked.

“There is no question the FDI in retail has its positives and there are experts who argue in favor of FDI in retail. The important thing is that policies are not cast in stone and can evolve should there be a definite evidence one way or the other. Besides, a majority of the states in India have taken the same stand as Delhi.”

Kurup likens the AAP working strategy to a Silicon Valley startup that is looking to scale rapidly: “Like always, there are going to be naysayers. That is part of the package. Nobody is perfect, but there is no question that the AAP is a rare new breed in Indian politics. The important thing is that like a startup, the AAP is nimble and can adapt.”

And then brings the conversation back to AAP’s biggest selling point.

“The AAP is constantly learning and taking corrective action when required,” Kurup said. “Before the election the AAP withdrew the nomination of a candidate because they found some inconsistencies with his records. When is the last time a political party in India did something like this?’

Ritu Jha in California