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Imploding India's PSUs: The BJP Handbook

Through complete control over the PSUs, including their boards of directors, the BJP ensured that the decisions taken in these PSUs are against the institutions themselves.
Imploding India's PSUs: The BJP Handbook

If the hoarding in the photo above, (picture attached with this article) raised just outside the Delhi police headquarters by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) mouthpiece Panchjanya, is a pointer to anything, it is that the public sector is doomed. Panchjanya, which is a weekly newspaper of the RSS, held a conference on sustainability in Hotel Le Meridien, Delhi -- something which could not even be imagined a few years back.

This hoarding still hangs on the walls despite the fact that the event was held a month ago. Whether the NDMC has allowed it to hang free or is charging the organisers is anybody’s guess.

Moreover, the paper has spent lavish money to hold such a conference. However, the money did not come from its coffers, as is evident from this large hoarding; some public sector units and government companies contributed to this big event. These are the National Highway Authority of India, International Solar Alliance, Hindustan Copper Limited, Namami Gange and WAPCOS. Their CSR funds are being used for an event run by the RSS mouthpiece!

The antipathy of the RSS and its political outfit, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against the public sector undertakings (PSU) is not hidden at all. In fact, since the inception of the formation of the PSUs, they have been in opposition to this path of development in India. But now they control the government and with that, they also control the decision-making of these PSUs. It is like the institutional system itself wants to get rid of the system established. Not to go into the details of all the decisions taken since 2014 to dismantle the PSUs, the BJP has, in fact, controlled some of the most lucrative and profit-making PSUs by nominating its people on the board of directors.

Thus, through this control over the PSUs, as is seen in the Panchjanya conference where the public sector units funded an RSS conference in a lavish style in a seven-star hotel in Delhi, the BJP also ensured that the decisions taken in these PSUs are against the institutions themselves.

'Independent' Directors: Most from BJP

In an independent story done by The Indian Express in 2021, it was revealed through an RTI inquiry that across the maharatna, navratna and mini ratna categories of the PSUs, 86 of the 172 independent board directors belonged to the BJP. Some of them do not even have an iota of understanding of their respective PSU's functioning or have relevant expertise.

Some of the names of the important PSUs with a turnover of Rs 25,000 crore over three years, which are controlled by these independent/BJP directors, are as follows:

Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited

Manish Kapoor: Deputy treasurer, Uttar Pradesh BJP. Appointed to the PSU board on January 30, 2020.

Rajesh Sharma: Ex-national convenor, BJP CA Cell, Uttar Pradesh. Appointed on February 20, 2019. 

Raj Kamal Bindal: BJP member since 1996. Joined PSU on January 30, 2020

Indian Oil Corporation Limited

Rajendra Arlekar: Former Speaker, Goa Assembly; ex-minister. Joined PSU on July 24, 2019. 

Lata Usendi: Vice-president, Chhattisgarh BJP; ex-minister; ex-MLA, Kondagaon.

Steel Authority of India Limited

N Shankarappa: State executive member, Karnataka BJP; ex-MLC; former state OBC commission chairperson.

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited

G Rajendran Pillai: State executive member, Kerala BJP; lost 1996 Assembly polls.

GAIL Limited

Banto Devi Kataria: Wife of Rattan Lal Kataria, union MoS for Social Justice and Empowerment.

Power Grid Corporation of India Limited

A R Mahalakshmi: Vice-president, Tamil Nadu BJP; lost 2016 Assembly polls.

Shipping Corporation of India Limited

Vijay Tulshiramji Jadhao: BJP candidate in Maharashtra Assembly polls in 2009 and 2014; lost both times. 

Mavjibhai B Sorathia: Convener of CA cell, Gujarat BJP; former Mayor of Anjar.

NBCC (India) Limited

Jyoti Kiran Shukla: Ex-spokesperson, Rajasthan BJP; former chairperson of State Finance Commission.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited

S Malla Reddy: Former vice-president of BJP, Telangana.

Hindustan Copper Limited (One of the partners in the Panchjanya event)

Subhash Sharma: General secretary, Punjab BJP.

Airports Authority of India

Kasam Venkateshwarlu: Secretary, Telangana BJP; lost Assembly polls in 2009 and 2014.

Central Coalfields Limited

Shubhu Kashyap: BJP Chhattisgarh state executive member; lost 2018 Assembly polls.

Solar Energy Corporation of India Limited

Rashmi Singh: BJP UP; contested 2012 Assembly polls.

The Indian Express was told by all these above appointees that there is no conflict of interest between their being in the BJP and their appointments to the PSU boards.

Affecting Decision-Making

These are a few names of the ‘independent’ directors on the board chosen by the government to lead the PSUs of the country. All of them are not just from the BJP but carry an inherent agenda against the PSUs and are determined to dismantle the institutions from within.

There are cases where these 'independent' directors have asserted against the interests of the respective PSUs. It was learned from reliable sources that the modus operandi was similar in almost all their interventions, and that is: the PSU will not be allowed to bid for some of the profitable works, and instead, the institution will be burdened by lavish spending. Events like the Panchjanya conference, in the guise of “sustainable development”, are forced to be sponsored by the PSUs, and that too in costly hotels that do not benefit them in any way. The RSS and its organisations have, in fact, blatantly used the government apparatus to not just get its coffers filled but also ensure the fall of the PSUs.

In a director’s conclave on corporate governance held by the Ministry of Heavy Industries in April 2022, none of the functional directors was allowed to place their views and only ‘independent’ directors made speeches with political overtones.

The ratio of independent directors vis-a-vis functional directors is also a matter of concern. Deliberately, the government is not appointing functional directors in many PSUs, and thus, influencing their decision-making.

The employees in these PSUs, some of whom are organised under different banners, have been asked to keep mum and have even been allegedly intimidated if they raised voices against such attacks on the PSUs.

The unfortunate part of this entire exercise is that there is hardly anything in the public domain about the functioning of these PSUs, and people think their inefficiency is leading to their fall. However, all of this is actually being done with a determined plan from both outside and inside, ensuring the dismantling of these PSUs and handing them over to private capital for sale at throwaway prices.

The RSS and its cohorts that claim to be ‘nationalist forces’ are hitting at the country's very foundation, i.e., self-reliance, towards which these PSUs have contributed a lot. The nationalism of the BJP is abject privatisation of the resources, which is detrimental not only to economic development but also to Indian nationalism.

RSS’s events, like the latest one for sustainability, against such a background, are just a smokescreen digging into the coffers of the State and using the funds for their political interests. 

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