For many observers of post-liberalisation India, the two images above epitomise the way business is done here. They show Mukesh and Anil Ambani arriving at (or leaving) meetings with top government officials in quiet sandstone offices in Lutyens’ Delhi. Such ‘courtesy calls’ signal the enormous hold the two multi-billion dollar industrialists have traditionally had on politics and government, on ‘managing the environment’ to grow their businesses.
But recently, the direct attacks on the Ambani brothers reflect the cracks that have appeared in this government-business relationship. Anti-corruption crusaders Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan followed up a stinging attack on Mukesh Ambani’s role in Jaipal Reddy’s exit from the petroleum ministry with an expose on the Ambani brothers’ HSBC Swiss bank accounts. Though denied by both Mukesh and Anil, it is interesting that out of all the names Kejriwal mentioned relating to Swiss bank accounts, theirs have stolen the spotlight.