Sunday, 5 Apr 2020

After India's Amazon snub, Modi's party slams Bezos-owned Washington Post

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party on Friday (Jan 17) slammed editorial policies of billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, even as his e-commerce firm Amazon announced plans to create a million jobs in the country by 2025.

Mr Vijay Chauthaiwale, the chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) foreign affairs department, said there was “a lot of problem” with the newspaper’s coverage of India, but did not give any specific examples.

The swipe at the Post came a day after a Cabinet minister gave short shrift to Amazon’s investment plans for India.

Mr Bezos has praised India during his ongoing visit, saying the 21st century will be the Indian century and that the dynamism and energy in the country was “something special”.

“I am not opposing Amazon as a company, in fact I am a regular customer… Jeff Bezos should go home tell Washington Post what is his impression about India,” Mr Chauthaiwale told Reuters.

“The Washington Post editorial policy is highly biased and agenda driven.”

Washington Post’s India bureau chief, Ms Joanna Slater, referred a Reuters request for comment to the newspaper’s spokespersons in Washington, who did not immediately respond outside regular business hours.

Amazon too did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Mr Chauthaiwale’s remarks.

Mr Chauthaiwale has in the past been critical of foreign media’s reporting on political issues, including on the disputed region of Kashmir which is claimed by both India and Pakistan, saying coverage has been biased against Mr Modi.

But his comments come when the Indian government is increasingly attacking e-commerce firms in light of concerns raised by India’s brick-and-mortar retailers, and has created a public relations nightmare for Amazon during Mr Bezos’s visit.

India’s shopkeepers have represented a core constituency for the BJP since the early days of the party. And sources told Reuters that Mr Modi, who has otherwise courted foreign investors, was unlikely to meet Mr Bezos during his visit despite repeated requests by the company in light of traders’ concerns and the ongoing anti-trust probe.

Small businesses say they’ve been hit by Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart which allegedly flout regulations and burn billions of dollars to offer steep discounts. The companies deny the allegations and say they comply with all laws.

India’s Trade Minister Piyush Goyal, a veteran BJP leader, on Thursday said Amazon had done no big favour to India by announcing a new US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) investment to help small businesses, raising questions on its business practices.

He added that a recently announced India anti-trust investigation of Amazon and Flipkart to look at allegations of deep discounting and whether the firms discriminate against small sellers were “an area of concern for every Indian”.

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