Congress man gets backing of Indian tycoons

MUMBAI • India's wealthiest man and its richest banker are both backing a politician of the main opposition Congress party in the general election, a rare public endorsement by two of the country's most influential businessmen.

Results in the seven-phase election, which began last week, are due on May 23. Mumbai, the financial capital of India, goes to the polls on April 29.

Mr Mukesh Ambani, who heads Reliance Industries, and Mr Uday Kotak, managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank, both endorsed Mr Milind Deora, the Congress candidate for the South Mumbai constituency.

"Milind is the man for (South Mumbai)," Mr Ambani said in a short video shared by Mr Deora on his Twitter account late on Wednesday.

Reliance did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The endorsement comes as a surprise. Many politicians see Mr Ambani's family as having close ties with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Ms Manisha Kayande, a spokesman for the BJP's regional ally, Shiv Sena, which has fielded a candidate against Mr Deora, said: "It is surprising that Mr Ambani has endorsed Mr Deora, considering the ties he has with (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi."

 

The attempt to influence voters with the backing of industrialists will backfire, she said, because ordinary people want a leader who fights for their cause and not for tycoons.

The Ambani family hails from Mr Modi's home state of Gujarat and they have often praised him publicly.

Mr Deora, who was a junior minister in the previous government, is the son of a career Congress politician and his family has close ties with the Ambanis.

He is also a two-time MP from the South Mumbai constituency, whose 1.5 million voters include some of India's top tycoons.

Mr Ambani, chairman of retail-to-telecoms conglomerate Reliance Industries, said in the video: "Having represented (South Mumbai) for 10 years... Milind has in-depth knowledge of the social, economic and cultural ecosystem."

 
 

Like Mr Ambani, Mr Kotak also endorsed Mr Deora in the video. Kotak Mahindra Bank did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Mr Ambani has a fortune of US$53.4 billion (S$72.4 billion), while Mr Kotak is worth about US$12.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2019, with the headline 'Congress man gets backing of Indian tycoons'. Print Edition | Subscribe