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Senior British politicians: learn from India’s prime minister

corporate lobbyistsThe Delhi durbar – like Britain’s Westminster Court and the Congress in Washington – has long witnessed government ministers and bureaucrats feted by entrepreneurs, executives and well-paid lobbyists.

Both have been “lubricated by lavish parties hosted by loquacious power brokers” as the FT’s Amy Kazmin puts it – frequented by cabinet ministers and the city’s financial and commercial elite.

narendra modi (2)She reports, “Mr Modi has discouraged his cabinet ministers, and other influential BJP members, from excessive socialising in the capital, lest they be seen as too cosy with special interests”.

Ministers have been told they should receive entrepreneurs and corporate executives in their offices rather than the lobbies or dining rooms of five-star hotels.

Business people have received the message that they shouldn’t come to Delhi to petition personally or argue their cases with officials; they should merely email their problems – and that they can rest assured of a timely response.

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Making government more responsive to all – rather than simply to those with the right connections – would mean a dramatic change in the working style of British and Indian politicians and civil service.

Ms Kazmin adds that ministers have carried out spot inspections at 9am to see whether staff – at all levels – are turning up on time, and there is talk of biometric scanners and disciplinary action for habitual latecomers.

Further lessons for the British government from the new man in Delhi are the expressions of a practical concern for poorer people – their food security, access to water and sanitation and also for the environment – a very cautious approach to those lobbying to increase the genetic engineering of crops.

India stops one carriage on the Gravy Train in its tracks

When will senior politicians in the British government decide to have an arms length relationship with currently close defence, banking, construction, pharmaceutical and bioscience corporates, stop rewarding failure, close the revolving door and begin to believe that – long term – honesty is the best policy?

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For years the name of Agusta Westland has surfaced in our database files.

Reuters now report that India, after terminated the 2010 contract for twelve AW101 helicopters, partly produced in Britain, has recovered 228 million euro bank guarantees. Allegations of bribery (detailed here) had emerged in Italy against executives at Finmeccanica’s helicopter unit, leading to the arrest of former Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland senior executives.

The revolving door between government and multinationals

revolving_doorA 2009 investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence: “Last year 394 civil servants applied to sell their skills to the highest bidder – and 130 were MoD personnel.

ACOBA, the committee which vets such appointments, approved all the applications, although some carried conditions”.

The MoD handed a £1.7billion contract for helicopters to Finmeccanica who then appointed as chairman the department’s top civil servant, Sir Kevin Tebbit, who ran the MoD in 2005. Finmeccanica, owns AgustaWestland.

  • Three years ago this site recorded the award of a £1.7billion contract to former Cabinet minister Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary who became AgustaWestland’s executive senior vice-president of international business.

Another reward for failure?

The Financial Times and so many others – recalled that Hoon left his position with NATO in 2010 after being filmed by Channel 4 Dispatches telling undercover journalists posing as representatives of a lobbying/PR company, that his experience as a minister would help ‘open doors’ for firms wanting to lobby government.

A comment on the Movement for the Abolition of War newsletter: “Ex-defence secretary Hoon, having ensured AW earned millions, is now working for them.”

In March this year, another appointment was highlighted by Exaro News, an online service which investigates issues that are important to both the business world and the public in general, but which are being inadequately covered – or ignored – by the mainstream media.

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Yesterday, a blog by David Hencke, an investigative journalist, pointed to an article by Exaro colleague David Pallister which reveals that proceedings investigating alleged corruption involving a middleman and another British businessman and Indian officials are continuing in India and Italy.

Squeaky clean – only ’foreigners’ involved?

cameron singh indiaDavid Cameron in 2013 visited India with 100 business and, as you can read here, praised Westland, saying that any corruption problems about the order were a matter for the Indians and the Italians;

“Britain has … some of the toughest laws in the world, so people know if they do business with British companies, they have protections.”

How odd that must have seemed to Indian listeners – as one of the people under investigation in the corruption scandal was British.

The Indian Parliament has recorded a request for more information and a written answer to MPs says: “MEA (ministry of external affairs) has also been requested to take up the matter with the government of the UK, as well as requesting its co-operation in verifying the allegations, and helping us by providing relevant information relating to the alleged involvement of a middleman and/or of any Indian individual/entity.”

Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, was asked what was happening by David Hencke at a press gallery lunch in Parliament. His reply was that he was “unaware of any request” and repeated the Cameron line (above).

British workers in Yeovil will suffer from various forms of corruption in the higher echelons

Hencke ends by adding the latest news reported by the Times of India, that India has been considering whether to blacklist the company – a decision currently ‘put on hold’. He points out that this arrogant attitude towards corruption – “only a problem for others” – might well have serious repercussions for British workers who assemble the helicopters in Yeovil.


Radical change? Long overdue

Game of thrones: ‘Aam Admi’ in Delhi shows England the way – let’s ‘vote for the broom’ !

Global business interests downplayed surprise Delhi election results: they desperately need the corporate-friendly Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister.

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The recent state elections were reported here as a victory for Modi supporters, but – thanks only to a lead from analyst Devinder Sharma – the writer read about the success of Aam Aadmi, or Common Man Party, also known as A.A.P.

Why are they entering politics?

The AAP website records that for the past two years millions of common Indians came out on streets to fight against the biggest evil in our country today – corruption.

It continues: “The current system of polity does not allow honest politicians to function. Our aim in entering politics is not to come to power; we have entered politics to change the current corrupt and self-serving system of politics forever. So that no matter who comes to power in the future, the system is strong enough to withstand corruption at any level of governance”.

Founded only a year ago, the AAP came a close second to the BJP in the capital, depriving the BJP of a majority and leaving Congress with only a handful of seats. AAP members wearing their trademark white caps with the slogan “I’m an ordinary person” celebrated in the streets by waving the party symbol – brooms, used by India’s street cleaners. They won 28 out of 70 seats in the Delhi elections, after only a few months of vigorous campaigning on the promise of combating corruption.

arvind kejralAam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, an IIT educated engineer and former tax collector, gained twice as many votes as Sheila Dikshit, the state’s long-serving Congress chief minister and winning her seat in New Delhi. He met Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and discussed the party’s role in a Delhi government.

The Financial Times has covered the elections well. It reports: “Mr Kejriwal’s party depends largely on small donations from ordinary citizens, and one candidate, Ms Shazia Ilmi describes how she tried to dissuade a fruit vendor on the street from donating the relatively large sum of Rs500 ($8). “I said, ‘It’s too much,’ I felt guilty, and he said, ‘Look, I have to give Rs500 [in protection money] to every policeman.’

The FT’s Victor Mallet in New Delhi explained AAP’s need to persuade voters that the ballot is secret, that those receiving food subsidies will not lose them if they vote AAP, and that it is worth voting for a new party with few resources.

rakhi birlaThe New York Times reports that Rakhi Birla, its youngest candidate at 26, was born and raised in the low-income neighbourhood of Mangolpuri and, as a former television reporter, had no political experience.

Through her publicly funded party, Rakhi Birla ran against millionaire politician Raj Kumar Chauhan, 56, who joined politics in 1976 and had won four consecutive elections since 1993 for the Indian National Congress, which also leads the governing coalition of the central government.

Her victory of over 10,000 votes stunned many political observers. Arvind Kejriwal, the Aam Aadmi Party leader who defeated the three-term chief minister Sheila Dikshit of the Congress Party by over 20,000 votes, cited Ms. Birla’s win as a shining example of the spirit of their politics.

Kejriwal, “When the common man rises up, the thrones of a lot of powerful people will be rocked; some of those thrones have been broken today”

Ms. Birla dismissed any credit for her big victory. “People didn’t vote for me; they voted for the broom,” she said, referring to her party’s symbol, which signals a sweeping away of corruption and the old order.

Global business interests flourish only when there is a corporate political nexus formed by individuals and their family members passing backwards and forwards through the revolving door.   

Aam Aadmi is not playing that game.