While Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that seeking an answer was better than "spreading one's own impressions", Urban Affairs and Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the fact that Bajaj could "express himself & instigate others to join" was "what democracy is all about".
In his short address at The Economic Times' ET Awards 2019 in Mumbai, which had Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on the stage, Bajaj said in a shaky, broken voice, that there was freedom to abuse anyone in the government during former PM Manmohan Singh's tenure, but in the present time, industrialists can not openly criticise the Modi government.
Shah, who is home minister, pushed back against Bajaj's remarks at the event organised by the Economic Times newspaper.
Shah's comments came after industrialist Rahul Bajaj who was present at the said, "Nobody from our industrialist friends will speak, I will say openly..." His remark drew applause from the crowd. During the second term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), one could criticise the government without fear, he said. "You (the government) are doing good work, but despite that we don't have the confidence that you will appreciate if we criticise you openly", Bajaj said.
Bajaj also referred to PM Modi's reaction to Pragya Thakur's earlier reference to Godse as a "deshbhakt" in May, saying "the prime minister had said it would be very hard for him to forgive her". "We strongly condemn it", he said. But I would like to point out that there is no need for anybody to be afraid... "No one wants to scare, and we have done nothing to be concerned about any criticism", Shah responded.
The industrialist on Saturday said that instances of mob lynchings in the country had created an intolerant environment. He raised questions over tax terrorism, Pragya Thakur's "Godse was a patriot" remarks in the Parliament, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief, Mohan Bhagwat's statement that lynching is a foreign concept. These may be minor points but it creates an air. There's an air of intolerance - we're afraid. Addressing the matter of lynchings, Shah said that they occurred in the past as well but had reduced now. But it is not correct that there have been no convictions. "Several cases of lynchings have been concluded and there have been punishments but the media does not publish them", he said.
BJP IT-cell in-charge Amit Malviya tweeted a couple of news videos that show him purportedly praising Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for interacting with industry bodies when the UPA was in power.