One of the richest individuals in Britain, Swraj Paul, 83, invariably figures in 'rich lists' brought out by various organisations. He is the founder of the multi-billion-pound Caparo Group and sits in the House of Lords. Known to have been close to Indira Gandhi, Paul has been a witness to several political developments in India and Britain.
Based in his Baker Street office in London, he spoke to Prasun Sonwalkar on Narendra Modi's election victory and spelled out his ideas for the new government:
Q: How has Narendra Modi's/NDA-BJP's victory in the general elections been received in the West's business community?
Paul: Very positive. It is a great victory. The people were also looking for change and they have got a very positive change – a clear cut majority. In any democracy people like a clear cut majority.
Q: The Economist had expressed its reservations about Mr Modi because of the past. How representative of the western business community is that view?
Paul: I really don't know why The Economist and some other Western press had been so negative towards Mr Modi before the election. Of course, after his election victory they have changed their views. As far as the western business community is concerned, they were hoping for a stable government and they have got it. Not many democracies are that stable, not even in the west.
Q: What are your expectations from the new government? (Please list 4-5 things you want to see this government do).
Paul: My expectations from the new government are, fortunately, what the Prime Minister has already set out in his campaign and which have been reiterated by his finance minister Mr Arun Jaitley on taking office.
1. That the Prime Minister and his government are going to work for all the 1.2bn people of India.
2. That he is determined to eradicate corruption. I know it is very difficult because even the western world is suffering from it but they do take quick action both against the giver and the taker.
3. That he will improve the education system. The country needs a better education system from primary schooling right up university. It is a shame that with all the universities in India, there is not one that is ranked in the world's top 250. In my view, India has to work hard at getting universities that are world class. It is visible in the outstanding teachers and researchers of Indian origin that we see all over the world; for example, some are the Presidents of very prestigious universities, and there are also many well respected Deans and Department Heads of Indian origin to be found in top class universities around the globe.
4. The new government will not concentrate on pleasing a few rich people, it will concentrate on what is best for the country. No underhand coziness with business or with money.
5. The policies in future should be clearer and more transparent. Once these are clear there will be no exceptions made for anybody. This should be made clear to the world. Instead of going from country to country chasing investors, if India can create stable business conditions that are not subject to whims, the world investment community will flock to India to invest. People everywhere are looking for places to invest, so India should not worry about attracting investment. All that needs to be done is that when the investors come into India then they are treated fairly. No decisions should be made on a case by case basis or different things for different people.
6. Fewer changes of policies.
7. NRIs should be considered at par with the domicile population because they have shown that they think more about India than those who live there. At any time of crisis in India the NRIs have brought money into India while the home population have taken money out.
8.The health of the citizens should be looked at almost at emergency level because a healthy nation, just like a better educated nation, is more productive.
After seeing Mr Modi's success in Gujarat and after seeing the Cabinet he has appointed, especially the finance minister who is world class, India can fulfil the dream of every Indian at home and abroad.
Q: What are the main problems in doing business in India?
Paul: The government should make different policies; one for investment in the stock market and another for investment to put up new industry which creates very stable jobs. The two must be monitored differently and reported separately.
What India really needs is creation of jobs and production of goods because that is most important. Stock market money is in and out. It basically doesn't create any long term worth for the country. In my view, stock market investment should not even be treated as investment, it is just speculation. India has an active stock market and people can invest in it. Government must make clearer and very transparent rules so that nobody can abuse the system.
Indians all over the world have demonstrated their ability to run industrial companies as well as anyone else and they should be able to do it in India. India needs more jobs and employment. However, good people cannot cope with the day to day botheration.
Q: There were many allegations of nexus between the corporate world and politicians in the recent elections - how do you see this trend?
Paul: It is not a question of allegations of a nexus between the corporate world and the politicians. It exists and far too much. It needs to be killed if we want India to be respected, otherwise corruption cannot be controlled. I have been talking about it since 1982 and here is an opportunity for the Prime Minister, with his new mandate and with the Finance Minister, who I have had the pleasure of knowing for a long time and who is a man of high principles and great integrity. But the job is so difficult that he will need all the support from the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet to achieve this herculean task.
Of course, the Prime Minister's own record in Gujarat speaks for itself.
Q: What changes have you seen in India since the 1970s?
Paul: India has changed a great deal since the 1970s – some for good but some for the worse. But here is an opportunity after this election for India to gain its rightful status in the world. I think that the way people in India have voted – forgetting religion and forgetting caste – they are looking for a big change and they deserve it.
Q: Your views on corporate governance in India.
Paul: The question is whether there is any corporate governance in India. Of course, corporate governance is lacking in other parts of the world – including the western world where we have seen some major scandals in recent years. But India should be able to do better. It is part of our culture, which I am very proud of and let us try to follow our own traditions and cultural views.
Q: Do you think Modi can bring about the changes he has promised, the high expectations he has raised?
Paul: I certainly hope so and believe so and I wish him all the luck. The whole of India wants him to succeed and whole world will envy him if he does.
May I add that I admire the Prime Minister's remarkable action in inviting all the SAARC heads of state to attend his swearing in ceremony. I am glad that they came and it has raised the status of India and his government.
I am very proud of being Indian and let us all be proud of India.