NEWS
17/01/2020 12:15 PM IST | Updated 17/01/2020 1:03 PM IST

BJP's Problem With Amazon Chief Jeff Bezos? Journalism.

Piyush Goyal snubbed Amazon, saying the company's $1 billion investment was no big favour to India.

Mark Wilson via Getty Images
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, before being presented with the 2016 USIBC Global Leadership Award by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 41st Annual Leadership Summit at the Mellen Auditorium, June 7, 2016 in Washington, DC.

The Narendra Modi government and ruling party BJP seem to be snubbing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in not-so-subtle ways during his India visit.

Bezos announced on Wednesday that Amazon would invest $1 billion to bring small businesses online in India, adding to the $5.5 billion the company had committed since 2014.

Union commerce minister Piyush Goyal reacted to this, saying Amazon hadn’t done India any big favours by announcing the new investment, indicating tensions with the US online retail giant.

“They may have put in a billion dollars but then if they make a loss of a billion dollars every year then they jolly well have to finance that billion dollars,” Goyal told a security conference in New Delhi on Thursday.

“So it’s not as if they are doing a great favour to India when they invest a billion dollars.”

His comments came a little after BJP leader Vijay Chauthaiwala tweeted this: 

Chauthaiwala, whose Twitter bio says he’s in-charge of BJP’s foreign affairs department, later told Times of India, “I am not against Amazon. In fact, I am a regular customer of Amazon. But I am certainly against the one-sided, biased, agenda-driven anti-Modi editorial position of Washington Post,” he said. 

Chauthaiwala told the daily he wanted to highlight the huge chasm between Bezos’s praise for India and the dark portrayal of the country on the pages of Washington Post.

Washington Post, which Bezos owns, has given space to articles and opinion pieces that have sharply criticised the Modi-led central government. 

In the past few months, the newspaper has published articles by Rana Ayyub which have lambasted the government’s Citizenship Amendment Act and the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, and their dangerous consequences.

Last month, the Post published an editorial titled ‘The world’s largest democracy is pushing back. Modi should listen.’ It termed the CAA as discriminatory and said: “Mr. Modi would do well to abandon this misguided project of Hindu nationalism”.

Chauthaiwala, of course, has the dubious honour of being on the same side as US President Donald Trump, who frequently takes pot shots at Bezos for reasons ranging from his wealth to his ownership of the Post.  

Multiple reports say Modi will not meet Bezos this time. Sources told Reuters that Amazon had made several requests for a meeting in light of traders’ concerns and the ongoing antitrust investigation against the company.

Another side to the snub is the criticism Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart are facing from India’s small-scale retailers, which accuse them of violating law by racking up billions of dollars of losses to fund deep discounts and discriminate against small sellers.  

Just before Bezos’s visit, the Competition Commission of India launched a probe against Amazon and Flipkart to look into these allegations. Goyal had called the allegations “an area of concern for every Indian”.

“How can a marketplace make such a big loss, unless they are indulging in predatory pricing or some unfair trade practices? These are real questions that need answers,” Goyal said.

“The broader take-away for e-tailers though is that the Modi government’s political interests line up well with the anger expressed by CAIT and other small traders, who are an important vote-bank for the Bharatiya Janata Party,” Anuj Srivas wrote for The Wire.

On Friday, Bezos said Amazon planned to create one million jobs in India by 2025.