New face of corporate lobbying worrying
All corporate houses routinely lobby those in power, whether politicians or bureaucrats, and maintain good relations with journalists in order to further their interests—nor is this restricted to corporates, this is something NGOs do, even embassies of most countries do as their legitimate work; anyone that has an agenda to push, has to lobby, and you have to lobby with either those in power or in a position to influence that power. There is, however, a fine line that has to be drawn, and as so many exposes have shown over the years, that line is increasingly being crossed, whether in terms of hospitality or expensive gifts to journalists or paying for foreign education of children or employing children of the rich and famous, whether in journalism, bureaucracy, the judiciary or the political class.
Details of a power-point presentation of the Essar Group—published in both The Indian Express as well as The Financial Express—take this to an altogether new level. To begin the power-point by saying “the quality of your life is the quality of your relationships” is okay, though cheesy. There is nothing wrong with, for instance, the slide that talks of identifying at least 50 top-run persons from politics, bureaucracy and media—putting the judiciary in this list, though, makes it suspicious—if the idea is solely to cultivate them. Ditto for the slide that speaks of identifying “people likely to occupy positions of eminence in the country in the next 10 years” since the slide goes on to recommend the group “formulate a strategy to win over their goodwill and keep them on our side”. Where the power-point—for the record, Essar denies the presentation was made—oversteps the boundaries is when it talks of providing “employment to at least 50-100 persons from families of top VIPs”, or identifying “those VIPs who are in need of medical help for self or family” or, even worse, “offer hospitality and assistance to bureaucrats and top politicians during their trip abroad”. It is for each organisation to draw up its own list of dos and don’ts, but lobbying of this nature cannot be part of this.