Mukesh Ambani (above) and Narendra Modi (below) at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in Gandhinagar on Tuesday. (PTI and Reuters)
Gandhinagar, Jan. 10: The Prime Minister has been proved wrong: the rich do love kadak chai (strong tea).
Mukesh Ambani, the richest Indian, today lavished praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying no other "leader in the world has changed the mindset and behaviour of so many people in such a short period".
The industrialist told the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit that the Prime Minister is "a great transformative leader" who first transformed Gujarat and is now transforming India with a series of visionary initiatives. He cited programmes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Digital India, Make in India, Skill India and Start Up India.
Business leaders waxing lyrical about political leaders is nothing unusual. In fact, Vibrant Gujarat was the platform that helped Modi step out of the shadow of riots and project himself as a pursuer of the development agenda.
At the same summit in 2009, another Ambani had resurrected a prophecy. Anil Ambani, Mukesh's brother, had recalled that their father Dhirubhai Ambani used to say "Modi lambi race ka ghoda hai (Modi will go a long way)". "Narendrabhai has done good for Gujarat.... Now, imagine what will happen to the nation if he leads the nation.... A person like him should be the next leader of the country," Anil had said then.
This time, the effusive praise from the elder brother has come when Modi is polishing the garibi plank ahead of the Assembly elections and selling demonetisation as a pro-poor decision unpalatable to the rich.
Deploying his formidable communication skills at a rally in Uttar Pradesh on November 14, the Prime Minister had said: "My decision is kadak (strong). When I was a child, the poor would ask me to make kadak chai. The poor are fond of it. Since childhood, I have a habit of making kadak chai. It suits the poor but the rich dislike it."
Mukesh today showed no signs of disliking the kadak chai. Ratan Tata, too, appeared to have developed a taste for the brew.
Tata, who has been attacked by Cyrus Mistry on a host of issues, including the Nano car which is being made in Gujarat, paid rich tributes.
"Some years ago when I attended the Vibrant Gujarat summit, I said that if you are not in Gujarat, you are stupid. And some years later with great satisfaction I can say that you are indeed stupid if you are not in Gujarat which is one of the fastest growing states," he said.
Tata referred to the Nano, too. "Some years back, I got the fortune and good luck of moving our car factory to Gujarat and soon again with the leadership of Narendra Modi, Gujarat has become one of the hubs of car manufacturing in India," he said.
"I am proud to be here today. Hu pan Gujarati chhu (I am also a Gujarati)," Tata concluded.
This prompted Mukesh to say "we are proud that Reliance is a Gujarati company". He said Reliance would exceed by Rs 10,000 crore the investment commitments it had made in the state.
Mukesh used the opportunity to flag his group's 4G broadband and mobile network brand. He said that in the coming year, the brand would connect lakhs of merchants and shops to create a commerce and payment network to support the Prime Minister's cashless digital vision.
The Prime Minister echoed Mukesh's global theme, saying the country was at the threshold of becoming the world's largest digital economy. "India is the brightest spot in the global economy," Modi added.