Why Infosys is latest RSS target

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) directly targeted India’s IT pioneer major Infosys through its in-house Hindi mouthpiece, “Panchajanya”, demanding accountability for the glitches that cropped up in the new income tax filing portal developed by Infosys, days after the company’s CEO, Salil Parekh was summoned by the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman given a deadline until September 15 to reset the software.

However, Panchajanya’s diatribe against Infosys acquired an ideological dimension after the magazine in its cover story “Saakh aur Aaghaat” (Reputation Harm) accused the company of “destabilising” the Indian economy operating in cahoots with the “tukde, tukde gang”, a phrase used to defame Naxals, Leftists Jammu Kashmir separatists in the past. The basis for the allegations rested, not on any evidence, but on two queries circumstances that the article flagged: would Infosys have provided such “shoddy service” to its overseas clients? Second, the company “helped” the “tukde, tukde gang”, a term overarching enough to insinuate Infosys’s support to establishment-unfriendly news portals its co-founder, Nandan Nilekani having contested the 2014 elections from Bengaluru South as a Congress candidate. However, Nilekani is hardly persona non grata with the Narendra Modi regime. Not only did the Modi government embrace his Aadhar concept programme after initial reservations a few amendments, in July this year, Nilekani was made a member of an official panel to advice the Centre on measures needed to design accelerate the adoption of Open Network for Digital Commerce, although the notion of digital commerce is red rag to the RSS’s economic front, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM).

The singling out of Infosys by name without evidence typifies the hit-and-run tactics used by the RSS its affiliates in the past but those principally claimed prominent political victims. This is the first time that a corporate major has become a likely sufferer of the manoeuvre.

The attack on Infosys came days after Piyush Goyal, the commerce minister, assailed industry for seeking out “foreigners” as business cohorts for partnering “falana, dhimkana” (anyone everyone). Goyal, who is a Mumbai boy, was the BJP’s treasurer for years like his late father, Ved Prakash Goyal no stranger to the Bombay Bangalore Clubs, hit out against the Tatas for allegedly opposing some clauses of the proposed Consumer Protection (e-commerce) rules, 2020 which he wanted to enforce. However, his remarks were made at a closed door function hosted by the CII, that surfaced in a leaked audio tape not stated publicly like “Panchajanya” did.

While Modi’s first term saw little pro-active interventions by the Sangh’s economic labour fronts, notably the SJM the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the Sangh-patronised Confederation of All India Traders or CAIT, barring an agitation that ended up putting the amendments in the LAcquisition Act, in deep freeze, in his second tenure, these outfits are claiming credit for stalling policies decisions. For instance, the CAIT campaigned against Amazon Flipkart for “imperilling” the survival of India’s small medium traders by “colluding with multinational giants to plunder our retail market” lauded Goyal for “showing” the Tatas their place.

The Centre the BJP did not react to Goyal’s outburst or the tirade against Infosys except for Sangh sources maintaining that “national interest” was supreme in both cases “non-negotiable”. The Centre’s decision to not join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP was welcomed by the SJM as another example of “upholding national interest” despite pressure.

While on August 12 PM Modi implored the corporate sector to take advantage of a raft of “reforms” his government introduced, notably discarding the 2012 retrospective tax amendments correctives to decriminalise economic offences scale up investments, it remains to be seen if the recent interventions from within the BJP the Sangh will impede his attempts to pull off a balancing act.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP’s other PM, managed to keep the swadeshi lobbyists at bay, except in 2000 when his government was forced to “shelve” the Sankhya Vahini project that would have set up a high speed data network. The RSS, then headed by the swadeshi-wedded KS Sudarshan backed by Dattopant Thenagdi, the BMS founder whose name still inspired reverence in the RSS BJP cadre, raised the issue of “security threats” once it was known that Raj Reddy, a US-based computer scientist, was the brain behind Sankhya Vahini. Thengadi dissed the endeavour as a “fraud on the nation” nothing was heard of Reddy or his “brain-child” again.

Vajpayee paid a price for being confrontational with the RSS its economic fronts on other occasions. His finance minister Yashwant Sinha was abused publicly while Vajpayee was lampooned in an SJM in-house magazine. However, the BJP rose to defend its PM in a signed statement against Thengadi. That statement was signed by Narendra Modi, then a general secretary.

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