Business Lobbying

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The topic – It is always better to have clarity on the topic as it allows a clear flow of ideas. Lobbying, in fact, are the attempts made by certain corporate groups to influence the direction of legislative policy of a country/state in such a manner so as to bring benefits to them and safeguard their interests. The objective can be achieved by influencing legislators, members of Parliament and create a lobby to bring forth and get the favourable legislations passed. A lobbyist may be an individual or a group of individuals working for their employer or as an agent to them. Such people can be leaders of labour unions, corporate representatives, legislators, bureaucrats, and leading advocates, exercising influence in legislative circles or other private interest groups.

India does not have any clear regulation for or against lobbying, especially when it comes by the name of lobbying. But it is not legal either. Lobbying has now become a well-established service industry, although known by different names such as public relations, external affairs managers, environment management experts, etc. Various established associations, federations, confederations of industry & commerce, etc function as lobbyists to get policies framed in favour of corporates.

Dilip Cherian, a known lobbyist and founder of Perfect Relations, states that lobbying functions as a bridge between companies and the government. He speaks in no ambiguous tone, “We help our clients understand the policy environment of the country. We help them identify key players and their positions in the policy area. The key players could be political parties, bureaucrats, the central government, panchayat, etc.”

The lobbying industry has been placing its demand for clear and transparent laws in countries like India where no clarity on the issue is available. So, it is high time that India should decide on making lobbying either legal or illegal by framing a detailed and clear policy.

When you speak in favour of the topic i.e. lobbying should be made legal in India, the key points may be:

1. Whenever there have been some big leaps in policy framing in India favouring corporates in one or the other, the issue of lobbying has always come up. Whether it was Enron – the Dabhol power project in Maharshtra, foreign investment in corporate sector, big defence purchases, infrastructure development and now foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi brand retail, all have been shadowed by the issue of lobbying. The person or the company lobbying for certain favour cannot do so till the government, legislative bodies – Parliament or state legislatures – have not considered some path to move on. Lobbying would only smoothen the process.

2. Various chambers of commerce such as FICCI and CII, National Association of Software and Services Companies, and private firms like Vaishnavi Corporate Communications owned by Niira Radia and DTA Associates managed by Deepak Talwar are among top lobby groups. These organizations, however, maintain that they are not lobby groups and work to exercise influence to engage with the government on the policy issues. When so much of lobbying is done by the registered and legal firms and companies in the guise of some or other name and it is a well known fact, making lobbying legal will add to the government’s income by levying good amount of fee and charges on the same. Where does the amount, being paid now on lobbying, go – is anybody’s guess. A transparent legislation will definitely solve this ambiguity and loss of income.

3. The US and some European countries have made lobbying legal with specific conditions like quarterly disclosures on amount spent and the manner in which the same has been spent or so. This provides vital information and transparency to lobbying practices. The furor raised in Parliament over the issue of lobbying by Walmart in the USA could come up due to its disclosures. Corporate giants such as WalMart,...
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