CII Director General Tarun Das' outburst has caused a clear divide between the association's Indian and TNC members. Off the record, many admit that the simmering resentment may come to a head at the CII's annual general meeting (AGM) slated for mid-April. And the CII's invitation to the BJP's senior most swadeshi campaigner, Murli Manohar Joshi, to attend the AGM can only precipitate matters.
Most TNC members in the CII feel that some prominent Indian industrialists on the CII National Council have tended to dominate and dictate proceedings and views without putting the issues to vote before the council or the rest of the members. They say that any issue relating to TNCs—a sensitive matter, considering that the CII and the Government have been seeking increased foreign investment and also because there were a lot of new TNC members in CII—needed to be discussed in detail and debated properly in open fora instead of releasing statements without consulting members who would be affected by such statements. They also charge the National Council, the main policy-making organ of the CII, as not always representing the interests of all the members, especially TNCs. Says a TNCCEO : "Either there is a communication gap or the CII is not interested in TNC membership."
Insiders say that the CII top brass faced a Hobson's choice in recent months, following hectic anti-TNC lobbying by a section of its members—especially from the consumer goods, electronics and automobile sectors—who have been directly affected by a post-liberalisation spurt in TNC investment. While it would have been improper for the CII to issue an anti-TNC statement as it would irk the new TNC membership, the industry body also could not afford to overlook the pressures. Last year, the CII had sought extra funds from members to run the year-long centenary pro-gramme. The contributors now wanted their pound of flesh.
The CII, it appears, had thus chosen to play it safe by letting the director general make a statement in his own capacity, which, it thought, would be enough to please one side, yet not be official enough to get the other side up in arms. It thought wrong.
While the official CII line now is that the director general giving a 'slightly unorthodox' statement is no big deal, and the matter ends there, the ground reality may be far from that. TNC members have silently isolated themselves from the rest and may make a presentation at the AGM for bringing in uniformity and transparency in the association's functioning. They are also expressing reservations over the confederation's economic agenda, which, they say, promotes the interests of a select section of the members.
Das' carefully-planned outburst has created a split in CII's ranks that, the confederation may well discover, could be extremely difficult to mend.