Opinion

Contenders for Tesla's heart and business: State ministers line up to catch `


Flirtations with multiple paramours, foreign locales, betrayal, romantic overtures, and now an online swayamvar. You’d think this was a season of the dating show Love Island. But it’s actually a love story involving Elon Musk, Narendra Modi, a whole slew of other contenders for Musk’s heart and business – with Xi Jinping playing a key vampish role, as usual.

Since all matters of import – politics, celebrity divorces, government espionage involving companies and citizens — seem to take place on social media, it’s only expected that tech billionaires will discuss their problems with India‘s central government on Twitter. Last week, the Tesla Man tweeted, ‘Still working through a lot of challenges with the government,’ referring to GoI’s refusal to reduce import duties on the import of electric cars in India.

This ‘hard to get’ tweet has resulted in many hearts being set aflutter among our ministers across states – who seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on social media. Musk’s tweet has since then been propositioned by ministers from every corner of India – Punjab, Telangana, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka – to come set up a Tesla factory in their state.

So, what led to this strange turn of events? Modi visited Tesla’s factory in California in 2015 and had then invited Musk to set up Tesla’s first manufacturing plant outside the US in India. After seeming favourably inclined towards India, Musk reached an agreement with China and set up a Tesla factory in Shanghai in 2017 and rolled out Tesla’s first China-made Model 3 sedan in January 2020. Musk has since then been demanding an import relief for Tesla to test the Indian market.

How heart-breaking is it when you make overtures to the hottest boy in class, only to find out that as soon as you left town, he not only started dating your arch-rival, but he married her and even had a child with her? Which is pretty much what seems to have happened to India and its ‘irresistable’ offer of partnership to the Musk who likes masti.

Nobody likes to be two-timed, after all, and GoI is refusing to reduce imports – never mind life them altogether — to meet Poster Boy’s demands.

Now, while Telangana, West ‘Don’t Say Tata Motors’ Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka are all proposing their hand and land to Musk, and asking him to set up Tesla plants in their states, there’s one small detail they clearly think the Musk-eteer might not notice. And one that will ensure that their offers of everything – from infrastructure, commitment to environmental sustainability to a streamlined approval process – will meet the same fate as a love marriage struck down by a disapproving patriarch with a ‘Yeh shaadi nahi ho sakti!’

You see, under the Indian federal structure no state has the right to bypass the Centre in inviting a foreign company to set up shop in India. Tiny little obstacle, which not one of the ministers has bothered to mention to Musk. But maybe I should be less cynical, after all. It’s the thought that counts.

That Musk has chosen to ignore all these overtures is much like the fate of Cinderella’s not-so-ravishing step-sisters vying for Prince Charming’s attentions, only to be pipped to the post by the one whose foot fits the slipper – not chappal, silly, since in Western fairy tales a slipper is a Jimmy Choo-type shoe. China does have the best cordwainers (fancy way of saying ‘cobblers’) after all.

Musk may be slightly bemused. He hasn’t been so much in demand since the last time he was on the marriage market, and was upgrading to a younger, hotter, blonder model. And while our ministers from various states are doing a ‘chance pe dance’, GoI is cancelling the marriage proposal for the best reason to reject any marital alliance in India – it simply makes poor financial sense to go ahead with it. Bring out the popcorn and get ready for the the next season of Who Wants To Woo A Billionaire?



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