Lulu was whistling the tune ‘Ye public hai, ye sab jaanti hai, ye jo public hai!’ as he landed on my table.
‘That old Bollywood song!’ I said.
“The lyricist has been exceptionally insightful.”
“Sorry, I could not follow you. What are you referring to?”
“You are reading and writing so much about Maruti workers’ strike. Did you notice that in similar strikes the public opinion in some cases favoured management, while in some other cases it favoured workers?”
“Now that you say it, I realise that the public had its opinion on such issues.”
“In Maruti strike they have held Management of Maruti Suzuki guilty.” Lulu said.
“Yes, they have. It is not as if workers were blameless, but in the final judgement public has held the Management responsible.”
“Do you remember the Telco Strike in late eighties? In that case the public held the Union led by Rajan Nair guilty.”
“You are right. Ratan Tata had just taken over the reins. People thought that he wanted to make a mark and this was his test by fire.”
“Right. Tatas did not have an image of being very ‘controlling’ in their relationship. Actually, when it came to labour relations, they were seen, during the Telco strike, as a ‘weak’ management.” Lulu observed.
“Not without justification. But the real problem is that the strong gets arrogant. Rajan Nair fell because of his arrogance. His failure emanates from it.”
“Sharad Pawar openly supported Tatas. Yet the public sympathy remained with Ratan Tata.”
“Hmm…interesting. In Maruti case, the Government openly supported Maruti.”I said.
“In both the cases ‘Recognition’ was an issue. Maruti refused to deal with the union chosen by workers.” Lulu pointed out similarities.
“Yes, Tatas refused to deal with their erstwhile dismissed worker Rajan Nair. And both the managements did not budge an inch from their stand.” I agreed.
“Since auto industry supports a large number of ancillary units. Many others were affected in both the cases.” Lulu said.
“Tell me, why then the public opinion was with Tatas in 1989 and why is it against Maruti Suzuki today?” I asked Lulu.
“Hmmm….I feel that the people know that conflicts are inevitable. If you work together, there will be differences; there will be different individual aspirations and mindsets of the parties. The issue is how the parties have handled conflicts; the public does not appreciate the parties crossing the invisible boundaries it draws for resolving conflicts.” Lulu said.
“I see your point. They did not like Rajan Nair’s ways of violence and they did not like Maruti Suzuki dictating choice of union.”
“You are right! The people make their judgement, and they are good judges.”
“True. And they are not influenced by the outcome of win and lose.”
“You said it. That is why I say that the lyricist Anand Bakshi wrote an insightful song….‘
aji andar kya hai, baahar kya hai,
ye sab kuch pahachaanati hai
ye jo public hai, yeh sab jaanti hai, public hai!’