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How Gurumurthy resolved the Bajaj feud

Shobha Warrier in Chennai | June 17, 2003

S Gurumurthy, convener of Swadeshi Jagran Manch and noted chartered accountant, is a happy man today.

S Gurumurthy, convernor, Swadeshi Jagran ManchHaving mediated successfully to resolve the feud between Bajaj Auto Ltd Chairman Rahul Bajaj and his younger brother Shishir (who controls Bajaj Hindustan Ltd and has a stake in Bajaj Auto and other group firms), Gurumurthy seems relieved.

"When I saw the entire Bajaj family laughing together and cracking jokes, going back to the times when they had no fight, I felt so happy," Gurumurthy says.

Gurumurthy became involved in resolving the dispute when the Shishir Bajaj family approached him, in his capacity as a chartered accountant, through a lawyer friend sometime in the middle of 2002.

Gurumurthy told that initially he was very reluctant to get involved in the dispute.

"I told them plainly; first, I don't have the time, and second, I don't get involved in family quarrels. But my lawyer friend told me not to take it up as a professional assignment. He said, 'Just keep them advised on moral grounds on what they should do and what they should not do.' I agreed," he says.

Gurumurthy, however, also made it very clear that if any of the Bajaj kin resorted to moving the court of law, he would withdraw.

He first started helping the Bajajs draft letters and complete other legal formalities, but on the understanding that he would have nothing to do if they filed a suit against each other.

So, when Shishir Bajaj filed a case in the first week of March 2003 against elder brother Rahul, Gurumurthy withdrew from the scene.

But he was persuaded by another common friend to intervene once again. He said, "Guru, you should make the effort to contact Rahul and see that the case is settled." Gurumurthy refused to ring up Rahul Bajaj. Instead, Suresh Neotia, a friend of Gurumurthy and also a relative of Rahul Bajaj, contacted the Bajaj Auto chairman and had a discussion with him. This resulted in Rahul Bajaj calling Gurumurthy back onto the negotiation table.

 "We had a long chat during which he told me his side of the story. I told him to settle the dispute. He welcomed my suggestions (Gurumurthy refused to elaborate). My record is that I have never allowed anyone to fight; I have always brought fighting families together for a settlement. I have noticed that much of the fight is on account of egos. In this case also, everybody was for settlement, but nobody knew how to settle the fight," says Gurumurthy.

On the March 27, 2003, Gurumurthy and Rahul Bajaj met twice, in quick succession, in Mumbai.

In his meetings with both Rahul and Shishir, Gurumurthy did some 'plain and hard talking' reminding them about their family name and their own reputation.

Meanwhile, Shishir Bajaj gave Gurumurthy the full authority to settle the dispute.

On the June 6, everything was settled at a meeting in Pune. The same evening, the entire Bajaj family met in Mumbai, symbolizing the fact that everything was fine once again.

Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar and the Bajaj family advisor Dhirajlal Mehta were also present at the happy reunion.

So how was he able to resolve this battle so amicably? "They knew that I would do some plain talking. Both the sides felt they could trust me. They trusted my integrity and honesty. They knew nobody could buy me. Nobody had any insecurity about me. Another major reason is that I didn't do anything for money. It was resolved in such a manner that both the sides have to give in somewhere, and my role was to persuade them to give up," he says.

Gurumurthy informed that reports that Sharad Pawar and Dhirajlal Mehta could not bring about a settlement were wrong. "It was wrongly reported. At one point in time, the idea was to refer the problem to them as mediators, but that reference never took place. So it was wrong to say that they intervened and failed," he clarifies.

What weighed on his mind heavily as he was helping the Bajajs settle the dispute was that he did not want one of India's premier companies to fall apart.

He also felt that if the company's interests were hurt, national economic interests also would have been hurt. "So I never thought of it as a micro issue; it was a macro issue."

Though Gurumurthy refuses to go into the details of the fight now that everything has been settled, he admits that it was a "tough and difficult" task.

He also holds the view that all family settlements are difficult because there is not only an emotional angle, but also an economic angle to such disputes.

When asked whether his being the convener of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch had anything to do with the mediation, he answers in the negative. But admits that he was motivated by the 'swadeshi ideology.'

He also attributes his success to his training in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh because it has made him look at issues (such as the Bajaj dispute) not as a professional, but as an Indian.

He confesses that if he had not come in contact with the RSS, he would have worked solely for himself. "Now, when I go to Tiruppur or Namakkal or Karur (in Tamil Nadu), I see national interest in the people. I tell them, you are not just doing business, but enriching national interests. Their pride swells a hundred fold when I tell them this, because there is an element in a person which craves for a larger and nobler identity."

"I got this attitude to link a person to a nation from the RSS. In this process, I myself got marginalised and my propensity or desire to make money got marginalised. That's why I say, if I had not come in contact with the RSS, I would have been a hundred times richer money-wise, but maybe a hundred times poorer in other respects," says Gurumurthy.

What he tried for the people of Tiruppur or Namakkal or Karur, he tried for the Bajajs too.

He told the Bajaj family that if anything happened to the Bajaj family, it would affect the nation.

"I told them, don't think the business belongs to you, you may own it, you may run it, but its impact is on the country. When I talk to people like this, it certainly makes a difference. They suddenly begin to feel a larger purpose in their doing business itself."

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