September 8, 2015. There was a flurry of activity at 7, Race Course Road. After all, PM Modi had decided to host the Big Boss show in his own house. The who’s who of industry, banks, industry associations, ministries, mutual funds and the RBI would be called in as inmates. The event was bound to be full of masala and histrionics.
Inmate selection had been a nightmare. Cyrus Mistry had been extremely ruffled by the huge outlays that Big Boss had promised on roads and infrastructure in the last budget. “After all the pain we took to create a toy car which can navigate all the potholes! This guy is going to kill my small car business!” Even after 10 phone calls from the PMO, the man refused to attend. It was only after FM Arun Jaitley cleverly pointed out that there is a difference in outlay on roads and laying out the road that Mistry came to the House.
Sunil Mittal pooh-poohed the whole idea of having a physical meeting in digital India and offered 5G connections to ModiG. “What an absurd idea!” remarked Kumar Mangalam Birla, deciding to nominate the Airtel candidate for eviction immediately.
“Hehehe. Do what you will, guys, but end of the day, there’ll be only one winner. RIL.” That was Mukesh Ambani, the one inmate who had immediately accepted the Big Boss’ invite. He had already won several Big Boss seasons. Mallya did not have dates in his calendar and was not invited.
There was a big issue over who would cook. Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, having established himself firmly in the culinary department with the introduction of JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile scheme) in the Economic Survey, was called in to cook up some steam in the stale economy. Pancake would be cooked by Panagariya, the other Arvind. Minister Goyal, the “power” factor, was jealous of Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, whose job of supplying oil at low prices was being undertaken by the Saudi Prince himself.
The Governor of the People’s Bank of China Zhou Xiaochuan was invited as the firang guest. However, he cleverly declined seeing that the mutual fund inmates had donned “khali” looks at the mere mention of yuan devaluation. It is a nice game of thrones, thought Big Boss, with the policy team at loggerheads with implementation. “Take risks!” he boomed and the game began.
The games begin
RIL wanted all taxes to go; no I-T, no MAT, and certainly no GST. It also demanded no SIA and no ecological assessment when it acquired land. FM Jaitley, startled at such extreme demands, remarked that Mukesh needs to be the next FM. Mutual funds wanted bears out of the house. The bears said volatility needs to be evicted. The industry pointed fingers at banks for keeping rates so high. SBI chief Ms Bhattacharya bristled visibly and asked why the inmates had taken loans they couldn’t repay.
“But why don’t you reduce interest rates?” There was a sudden silence as Big Boss spoke. Ms Chanda Kochhar delicately looked at her empty glass. “No liquidity, Big Boss.” RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, who was brought in to keep “interest” on the show high, started uncomfortably. No matter how slowly the government moves on critical infrastructure, he knew that eventually his interest rate policy would be blamed for the slow pace of investments. “The weak transmission,” he began but was shouted down by the other inmates. The show had begun.
Big Boss smiled. He could see his TRPs going up.