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Is Pawan Ruia cosying up to Narendra Modi?

Last updated on: March 18, 2014 15:44 IST

Is Pawan Ruia cosying up to Narendra Modi?

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Probal Basak in Kolkata

“I am not a CPI(M) or a TMC man,” Ruia Group Chairman Pawan Ruia had said, dismissing the “perception” about him as a CPI(M) sympathiser.

But, like most industrialists whose only affiliation is to the administration, Ruia has sported both the tags at different points in time, and with another crucial election knocking on the door, he appears to be switching sides, yet again.

The most recent perception about Ruia is he is now cosying up to Narendra Modi, BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

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Image: Ruia Group Chairman Pawan Ruia.
Photographs: Courtesy, Ruia Group

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The event that triggered this view is the India Economic Convention in New Delhi, where Modi unveiled his governance agenda to industry captains and economic experts earlier in the week. Ruia happened to be one of the principal sponsors of the meet.

A spokesperson of the group, however, refused to comment on whether Ruia had sponsored Modi's event. Pawan Ruia, too, could not be contacted.

Ruia’s political equations determined the rise and fall of his business. If the perception of not having a good equation with the TMC government affected Ruia's business in recent years, while many would say a “good equation” with the erstwhile Left Front government had a role in his early success.

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Image: Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Reuters

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Ruia's public comment on Left Front government's state Industry Minister Nirupam Sen, soon after the Dunlop acquisition might be recalled in this regard. "He is fantastic and stood by me," Ruia had said about Sen.

In 2009, when issues concerning electricity arrears and the mode of payment for ongoing consumption had held up production at the Sahagunj plant of the company, the state power department soon reached into an agreement with the Dunlop management over payment issues, leading to the withdrawal of suspension of work.

Also, till 2010, Dunlop used to enjoy protection from its unsecured creditors under the West Bengal Relief Undertakings (Special Provisions) Act.

But the relief undertaking status was not renewed by the TMC government.

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Image: Nirupam Sen.
Photographs: Rediff Archive

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It would, however, be unfair to link Ruia's success entirely to his political equations. Following his acquisition of Dunlop in 2005 from Manohar Rajaram Chhabria’s Jumbo group, Ruia successfully took Dunlop out of the purview of the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) in 2007 by re-evaluating its fixed assets and later relisted its shares on the Bombay Stock Exchange in January 2010. Since then the "turnaround tag" stuck to him.

“Somehow there is a wrong perception among many that I do not have a good equation with the present government and local authorities. This has affected my business in the state,” Ruia had told Business Standard to explain his bumpy ride as an industrialist in recent years.

However, the equation was not always like this. Pawan Ruia was seen attending Mamata Banerjee's post-Durga Puja gathering in 2010, when the "paribartan wave” was at its peak. And subsequently, after TMC came to power in 2011, Ruia too joined all city industrialists to welcome the new government with high hopes.

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Image: Mamata Banerjee.
Photographs: Reuters

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But something went wrong, thereafter. Ruia has not been seen at any of Banerjee's investors' meet in the last two years.

The state labour minister and Mamata's close aide, Purnendu Bose, often publicly castigated Ruia for suspension of work at both Dunlop and Jessop.

Both Dunlop and Jessop - his two major ventures in the state - are staring at shutdown and all his operating businesses are outside West Bengal.

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Image: Dunlop tyre.
Photographs: Alexander Kaiser/Wikimedia Commons

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The group still has a turnover of Rs 2,500 crore from group companies like Falcon, Monotona that sell two- and three-wheeler tyres under the Dunlop brand and have a market share of 20 per cent in the segment. Ruia is also confident about getting a banking licence, for which he had applied.

Given the scenario, many would say, Ruia himself too might not find it any useful to amend the equation with the TMC leadership, as he hardly has any operating business in Bengal now.

Also, it is most likely that Ruia, among many others, has sensed the direction of wind ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.


Image: Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Reuters

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