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Meek Arvind woos business

New Delhi, Feb. 17: Arvind Kejriwal today asked industrialists to join his party, declaring support for “capitalism” and promising to learn from them, days after his erstwhile government had an FIR registered against Mukesh Ambani over gas-pricing.

The former Delhi chief minister was a study in humility as he addressed a meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), trying to dispel perceptions that he was left-of-centre and championing “corruption-free capitalism” as opposed to “business of loot”.

“I don’t know a lot of things, I may have a lot of shortcomings, my policies may be wrong — but my intentions are honest,” Kejriwal said, after seeking permission to speak in Hindi. “I want to build a new India. Please come and join us.”

Kejriwal had been invited to present the Aam Aadmi Party’s economic agenda before industry leaders, many of whom may have had misgivings over his actions against Ambani, which he has turned into a poll plank.

“We are not against capitalism. We are against crony capitalism,” he said. “Government has no business to be in business. Business should be left to the private sector.”

When someone in the audience cited how Kejriwal’s 2012 book Swaraj had skirted economic issues and asked about his economic vision, the AAP boss wasted no time in turning a humble learner.

“I will learn economics from you, Sir; I shall consult you and prepare the economic agenda,” he said.

But he skirted key economic questions, holding up “honest governance” as the answer to economic ills.

Asked about party colleague and known Leftist Prashant Bhushan, Kejriwal said: “What Prashant Bhushan said (about the government not leaving business in the private sector’s hands) is not the party line.”

Some tweeters alleged that his “government has no business” remark was a lift from a Narendra Modi speech.

The AAP is looking to contest over 300 Lok Sabha seats and has appealed for donations. Industry is known to be the biggest provider of funds for political parties, particularly during elections.

Kejriwal today didn’t flinch even from scaling down the concept of direct democracy after being told that direct democracy on every issue could lead to anarchy.

“Direct democracy is not possible in absolute terms. Swaraj is for local governance and not big issues like defence, security, etc,” he said.

CII director-general Chandrajit Banerjee said: “Kejriwal came out positively in addressing the concerns of the industry and was forthcoming in addressing the concerns of the industry through the dialogue process.”

He added: “He emphasised the role of the private sector and expressed the need for dialogue between political parties and industry in a free and fair manner to address economic issues.”