Exhibiting hypocrisy and the need for validation from white-skinned westerners, the Indian politicians, and state governments have shown their true colours in the last couple of days. Ever since Tesla founder Elon Musk tried his stale Twitter pressure tactics on the Indian government to lower the import duties, and bemoaned not reaching an agreement to bring Tesla to India – the politicians across the board quickly jumped in with their honey-glazed proposals.
Ministers and politicians representing states such as Telangana, Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra invited Elon Musk to build a local manufacturing unit in a bid to help Tesla overcome these “challenges”.
West Bengal invites Tesla, forgets its Singur episode
Ironically, one of the first states to open its hearts to Musk was the state of West Bengal. Ghulam Rabbani, West Bengal’s minister for minority affairs and Madrassah education took to Twitter and stated, “Drop here, we in West Bengal have best infra & our leader @MamataOfficial has got the vision. Bengal means Business,”
Drop here, we in West Bengal have best infra & our leader @MamataOfficial has got the vision.
Bengal means Business … https://t.co/CXtx4Oq7y5
— Md Ghulam Rabbani (রাব্বানী) (@GhulamRabbani_) January 15, 2022
Yes, the same West Bengal where the current Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee orchestrated a bloody campaign against industry giant Tata in 2008 in the Singur district to set a Nano manufacturing plant. Such was the upheaval created by Mamata that Tata was forced to abandon the ship and drop anchor in Gujarat.
Since then, no company has bothered setting any manufacturing unit in West Bengal. With no big business house operating out of Bengal, the state has lagged on several economic indicators.
Out of desperation, Mamata last year asked Bharat Biotech to set up a vaccine manufacturing plant within the state. However, the company promptly refused to accept any such invitation.
Punjab government woos Musk, forgets Rahul Gandhi’s hatred for Adani-Ambani
Then came the Punjab government and its loudmouth Navjot Singh Sidhu. The Congress leader also tweeted and requested Musk to consider Ludhiana as the next stop for Tesla.
Sidhu tweeted, “I invite @elonmusk, Punjab Model will create Ludhiana as hub for Electric Vehicles & Battery industry with time bound single window clearance for investment that brings new technology to Punjab, create green jobs, walking path of environment preservation & sustainable development”
I invite @elonmusk, Punjab Model will create Ludhiana as hub for Electric Vehicles & Battery industry with time bound single window clearance for investment that brings new technology to Punjab, create green jobs, walking path of environment preservation & sustainable development https://t.co/kXDMhcdVi6
— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) January 16, 2022
The Congress Punjab government may have Charanjit Singh Channi as the CM face but those familiar with the inner workings of the state government understand that it is Sidhu that pulls the strings. And ever since, Sidhu joined Congress, ditching BJP, he has been an anti-capitalistic leader.
Learning from Congress prince Rahul Gandhi, Sidhu has left no opportunity to target Reliance Jio and its founder Mukesh Ambani. Similarly, Congress inherently has been against the Adani’s and thus such antics of wooing Tesla came across as drama at best.
Tamil Nadu and its Sterlite, Foxconn plant saga
After Punjab, came the southern states. Tamil Nadu’s Minister for Department of Industries, Thangam Thennarasu took to Twitter and remarked, “Hi Mr. Elon @elonmusk I’m from Tamil Nadu.Tamil Nadu accounts for 34% share in total planned investments for Electric Vehicles. Welcome to India’s EV capital. Also Tamil Nadu is one of the top nine renewable energy markets in the world. #tnforpartnership”
Hi Mr. Elon @elonmusk
I'm from Tamil Nadu.Tamil Nadu accounts for 34% share in total planned investments for Electric Vehicles. Welcome to India's EV capital. Also Tamil Nadu is one of the top nine renewable energy markets in the world. #tnforpartnership pic.twitter.com/QEhJurYV5f
— Thangam Thenarasu (@TThenarasu) January 17, 2022
If the other states were any benchmark for the anti-industry market, Tamil Nadu certainly takes the cake in topping that benchmark. It has been more than three years since the closure of Sterlite Copper’s Thoothukudi (Tamil Nadu) based copper smelter plant and India has gone from being the net exporter of Copper to one of the biggest importers of the crucial commodity.
It was the largest copper plant in India and accounted for 40 percent (400,000 MT) of the country’s total copper smelting capacity. The plant was closed after China-backed protests by Christian, Maoists, and eco-fascist groups.
A similar playbook is being implemented in the Foxconn plant in the state and the company may any day wind up its operations and abandon the country. This plant has been shut since December 18, and there is no clarity on when operations will resume at the crucial Apple facility. The Foxconn factory employs over 17,000 people.
Musk does not want to set a local manufacturing unit
Musk and the Indian government have been in talks for years, but disagreements over a local factory and import duties have led to an impasse, meaning Tesla still doesn’t sell cars in India, three years after showing definite intent.
Musk’s company is insisting on slashing import duties, as much as 100% so that Tesla can first establish a market. However, the government has firmly explained to Tesla that there will be no import duty reduction or other benefits if Tesla does not set up a local factory.
Tata to produce 50K EVs in the country
While Tesla – an American brand is being wooed and serenaded by the fickle Indian politicians, they are giving a cold shoulder to a homegrown, indigenous company- Tata. Reportedly, Tata Motors has its eyes firmly set on producing 50,000 Electronic Vehicles (EV) in the next fiscal year starting April.
If it is able to deliver on the targets, the EV business could potentially generate revenue of Rs 5,000 crore for Tata Motors in FY23 itself. According to an ET report, Tata has steadily increased the number of EVs sold in the pre-dominantly petrol, diesel Indian market.
Tata Motors sold 350 EVs in FY19, which increased to 1,300 the following fiscal year and to 4,200 in FY21. Its EV volume in the ongoing FY22 is expected to be 17,000-18,000 units. In the first nine months of FY22, Tata Motors sold around 10,000 EVs.
However, you wouldn’t find a single state government taking to social media platforms and requesting Tata to come to their states. The reason is simple, Musk and his company resonate with the left-liberal class who are present in hordes on the echo chambers of social media platforms.
Indian opposition wants the woke internet points
Showing welcoming gestures towards Musk translates into internet points, nothing more, nothing less. The politicians are aware of it and are thus going all out to present themselves as the apostle of industry loving politicians.
Unlike Musk’s Tesla which will be highly unaffordable for the middle class, Tata is ensuring that the middle class buys the EV as well. While Tesla is welcome to explore the Indian market, it should play by the rules of the Indian government and stop trying to influence the decision-making through the social media route.
India, the world’s fourth-largest automobile market and home to more than 1.3 billion people, is an attractive proposition for EV makers. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Tesla understand this and so does the government and thus, the latter is willing to play the waiting game to wear down the American company. As for the “white skin worship” attitude of India’s opposition parties, the Modi government could not care less.