Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Gujarat. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Gujarat. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Vibrant Gujarat: Modi is king of kings for India Inc

The sixth edition of the multi billion dollar investment summit, Vibrant Gujarat 2013, began at Gujarat’s state capital Gandhinagar. The biennial summit that brought in excess of Rs 20 lakh crore investments in 2011, amid economic blues, would yet again attempt to attract huge investment proposals over the next two days. This time about 14000 MoUs are likely to be signed.

At the summit, apart from the Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi,  a number of  who’s who of India Inc are in attendance. Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Anand Mahindra, Adi Godrej, Chanda Kochar are just a few of them.

During his address, Adi Godrej, chairman of the Godrej group, said Gujarat is heading in the right direction if India is to emulate China’a growth story. Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra agreed, saying, “In future we will talk not just of China model in India, but Gujarat model in China.” Mahindra also added that as Gujaratis “think big, they are free from the fear of failure”.

Calling Reliance a ‘Gujarati company’, Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani said that he planned to invest Rs 100000 crore in Gujarat. Anil Ambani was even more effusive in his praise for Narendra Modi and called him a “leader of leaders, king of kings.” He said, “Narendrabhai Modi dreams with his eyes open, and has an open heart and mind.” He also said “Gandhi, Patel, Dhuribhai, and Modi are the key Gujarat heroes.

But it’s not just the Indian corporates who think Gujarat has set a benchmark.

Ron Somers, President of of the US-India Joint Business Council said that the success of Gujarat was because of predictability and stability. “Modi has set a new benchmark for progress all over, not only India.”

Patrick Brown, a Member of Parliament in Canada, said that 30 percent of Indians in Canada are in fact, Gujaratis and they have led to the development of the country.

Amitabh Kant, Ceo, DMIC (Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor) said that Gujarat has shown most energy in implementing DMIC. “Gujarat is creating new cities to benefit from DMIC,” he said. Japan Envoy Takeshi Yagi added that India is the key export base for Japan firms; and Gujarat is the key to DMIC infrastructural investments.

Vibrant Gujarat, Narendra Modi‘s showpiece global show, ostensibly intended to lure global investments into India’s western-most state, got off to a mela-like start yesterday. This summit, the sixth of Modi’s biennial jamborees that started in 2003, may not look like a game-changer for the state, but it nevertheless marks a watershed.

The inaugural session, which had a surfeit of speeches by businesspersons, foreign business delegations, and assorted people, served to emphasise one simple reality: the world is beating a path to the state. Thus, even while the session was more eulogy-oriented than business-focused, there is a tale to tell.

One, Brand Gujarat now vies with Brand India in the global sweepstakes. It is now being mentioned in the same breath as China and Singapore, with the Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt of the UK-India Business Council, a former British minister, saying Gujarat is growing faster than China. While some Indian states are growing even faster than Gujarat, the point is Gujarat’s track record has been stronger over longer periods of time, unlike other states, and unlike India itself.

Anand Mahindra probably went overboard in suggesting that just as we now talk of the China model, someday the Chinese will talk of the Gujarat model, but many speakers made similar points: if India has to grow like China, Gujarat is the state to watch.

If Brand Gujarat now rivals Brand India, it is largely because of external perceptions about who is running the governments: Manmohan Singh’s reformist credentials have faded over the last nine years, while Modi’s have grown stronger over the same period.

Two, Brand Gujarat is now acquiring a life of its own, beyond Brand Modi. Most of the speakers at yesterday’s inaugural, while making laudatory references to Modi’s role in pushing Gujarat’s image up the global investment consideration list, have now come to realise that Gujarat has strong pro-business credentials even without Modi.

This has happened for three unrelated reasons. One is Modi’s own efforts to drum up Gujarat as an investment destination over five previous Vibrant Gujarat summits. The second is the result of Modi’s critics: most of them have tried to rubbish his claims of taking Gujarat to double-digit growth by pointing out that the state has always had a tradition of entrepreneurship unknown in some other states. The third reason is the existence of a very strong Gujarati community in the west: the UK, Canada and US have connected the dots from strong Gujarati entrepreneurship in their own countries to Modi’s Gujarat. This is what has enabled them to end his global diplomatic isolation.

But, in the process, what has really got established is Brand Gujarat’s uniqueness in the global and Indian firmament. Brand Gujarat is thus delinking from Brand Modi – though they were inextricably linked over the last decade.

Three, Vibrant Gujarat is no longer about big investment commitments running into thousands of crores – all promised through memorandums of understanding with foreign delegations, many of which don’t finally end up as real projects. As this Firstpost report notes: “Only about 15 percent of the total investment pledged during the first four summits actually materialised. There has been a steady dip in the commissioning of large scale projects of over Rs 10 crore in the past few years. While in 2005, 422 projects worth 16,500 crore began commercial production, the number dipped to 75 projects in 2011.”

While Modi’s critics have rightly pointed out that the big investment claims have not always materialised, what they miss is the big picture: ceremonial occasions are about hype, hoopla, networking and brand building. The real investments happen quietly, when a Maruti makes Gujarat its “second home”, or when a Nano project shifts from Bengal to Gujarat.

What has really happened in the last five Vibrant Gujarat summits is simple: Modi has successfully positioned Gujarat for big-time investment. Whenever large investments start reflowing into India, Gujarat will get more than its fair share. This is not a mean achievement. Modi has repositioned Gujarat as the place to be within the matrix of interest in India.

Four, Modi himself was more muted this time. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he had to speak in English for a global audience. He is more comfortable in Gujarati and Hindi – where he is able to connect and communicate. But Modi did not even try to hardsell Gujarat this time. His speech talked of the broad goals and vision, not about getting someone to invest in his state. Is this because he thinks his job is done? That there is no point trying to hype something that seems self-evident? It either marks quiet confidence, or possibly a realisation that understatement may work better on the global stage.

Five, the Modi-for-PM talk was more muted this time. Unlike previous summits, this time the eulogies for Modi were devoid of references to Modi’s national ambitions. The Economic Times notes this with the headline: “India Inc invests in praising Modi, but not in his PM hopes.” In the past, the Ambanis and Mittals have vied with one another to say that Modi was fit to lead the country.

In 2009, Anil Ambani said: “Narendrabhai has done good for Gujarat and what will happen if he leads the nation.” Sunil Bharti Mittal said: “Chief Minister Modi …is running a state and can also run nation.”

This time, Ambani was equally profuse in his praise, but there were no references to Modi leading the country. Ditto for Mukesh Ambani or many of the others.

Does this mean India Inc is not so convinced about Modi now that his national aspirations are clearer after the recent Gujarat victory, amid much media speculation about a Rahul versus Modi fight in 2014?

This writer’s reading is more nuanced: Business leaders were more open in talking about Modi’s suitability for Delhi when that was not a near-term prospect. So it didn’t matter if they laid it on a bit thick – as business leaders usually do with all politicians, including Mamata Banerjee.

This time, though, the prospect appears more real in 2014, and the last thing businessmen want is to be victimised by the current central government for endorsing Modi in the run-up to the next election.

The non-reference to Modi’s national ambitions tells its own story.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Is Community-Neutral Growth Model In Gujarat Inclusive?

By Zafar Sareshwala (Guest Writer)

Is the Gujarat model of development inclusive? Some have called it sheer hype. They say that many false and exaggerated claims have been made about it. Yet others have said that this model works only for urban areas; some say it deliberately excludes minorities.

This writer, who was one of Narendra Modi’s toughest critics in the aftermath of the 2002 riots, has come to believe that the model of community-neutral development planning in Gujarat has worked for the benefit of all.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Narendra Modiji, What Are Sources Of funds of Large Entrepreneurial Class As Gujarat Faces Banking Deficit?

By Aakaar Patel | Ahmedabad

For Gujarat that boasts of a large entrepreneurial class, this is surprising to know that the state makes little use of the banking system. According to the 2011 census, only 57.9% of the households in Gujarat access banking services. This is lower than the national average of 58.7%, says banking statistics sourced from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). 

The per capita outstanding bank credit in Gujarat is lower than the all-India average. Delhi and Maharashtra top the states in terms of per capita bank credit, writes Mahesh Vyas, MD and chief economist, Centre at Monitoring Indian Economy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ghost Of Fake Encounters Comes Back To Haunt Gujarat

By Rana Ayyub / Ahmedabad

A CBI progress report on the four fake encounters of 2004-2007 in Gujarat establishes what INN has been saying all along. Now, senior policemen and IB officials face arrests in these cases.

Everything seems to be going Narendra Modi’s way. Starting with the BJP national executive in Mumbai, which was a showcase of his clout, the Gujarat chief minister must be feeling his position is secure, now that Sanjay Joshi, his biggest detractor within the party, has also resigned from the BJP.

However, a CBI investigation into four police encounters between 2004-2007 in Gujarat might just throw the proverbial spanner in the works. The investigation, which is nearing completion, has made some startling recommendations. Documents in INN’s possession, including progress reports of the CBI and statements of witnesses and IB inputs, show that the agency has proposed the arrest of eight senior IPS officers in Gujarat.

A closer look at the documents and the CBI’s investigation into the cases validates INN’s stand on the fake encounters of Sadiq Jamal and Tulsi Prajapati. Soon after the high court orders to investigate the Sadiq Jamal encounter, INN had published (Dead Man Talking, 3 December 2011) IB inputs and documents that belied the Gujarat CID theory of the case. Discrepancies were found in the FIR filed by the Gujarat Crime Branch, which stated that 22-year-old Sadiq, a resident of Bhavnagar, was a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant and was on his way to assassinate Chief Minister Modi, BJP patriarch LK Advani and VHP leader Pravin Togadia. Interestingly, intelligence inputs given by Joint IB Director Rajinder Kumar to the state police contradicted the two previous IB inputs issued in the same case.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Another Critique Of Modi Growth Model Goes Nowhere

An important project for intellectuals in India these days is debunking the Gujarat growth story. Since many “secularists” dislike Narendra Modi, it has become important to deny him what he claims as one of his achievements: the state’s fast-paced growth.

While it is nobody’s case that every achievement of Gujarat should be attributed to Modi’s leadership or even his tenure, the efforts by many to punch holes in his story are sometimes pathetic. You don’t improve your case against what Modi may have done wrong in 2002 by rubbishing what he may have done right at other times.

More often than not, the holes punched in the Gujarat story are bizarre because they are forced. They are also illogical: if Gujarat’s growth is not the result of Modi’s work, which is what his critics want to claim, you can’t in all fairness attribute all of Gujarat’s failures to Modi either. The argument cuts both ways.

Another debunking of the “Modi miracle” has been attempted by Arvind Subramanian in Business Standard. He says the Modi model fails on a key governance standard: the metric of the state’s own tax revenues (OTR) as a share of state GDP.

Quoting research by Utsav Kumar of the Asian Development Bank, the author says that Modi’s Gujarat does not pass the “smell test” of high or stable OTR-to-state GDP. While traditionally well-governed states such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have maintained stable or rising OTR-to-GDP ratios, the average figure for Gujarat has declined, from 7.84 percent to 6.65 percent of GDP between 1990-99 and 2006-11.

The drop is large, but predates Modi. During Modi’s tenure, the drop has been from 6.93 percent to 6.65 percent.  If anything, he may have arrested the rate of fall in the second half of his tenure.

In contrast, the comparative figures for Karnataka (8.98 percent to 9.57 percent), Tamil Nadu (8.93 percent to 8.54 percent), and Andhra Pradesh (6.78 percent to 7.73 percent) were either stable or better over the two decades.

While Karnataka and Andhra show a rise, Tamil Nadu was stable in the 1990s, but reported a drop that was more or less similar to Gujarat’s during the last decade (8.8 percent to 8.54 percent – a drop of 0.26 percent from 2000-2005 to 2006-11 against Gujarat’s 0.28 percent).

Subramanian also notes that states which have recently been mentioned in the same breath as Gujarat on growth and improved governance – Bihar, Odisha and Chhattisgarh – have managed to improve significantly on this ratio. Bihar’s figures are 4.30 percent and 4.61 percent (hardly earth-shattering); Chhattisgarh’s 7.32 percent is excellent (the earlier figures were not available); and Odisha’s improvement significant (4.65 percent and 5.63 percent).

What ties these three states’ OTR performance together is political stability.

That’s the answer to Subramanian when he asks: “In the tax collection data, why can one see a Raman Singh effect, a Nitish Kumar effect, a Naveen Patnaik effect, but not a Narendra Modi effect?”

Gujarat, on the other hand, saw a degree of political instability in the late 1990s and early 2000s – remember the Keshubhai-Vaghela political fight – till Modi came to power.

To assess Subramanian’s criticism, we have to examine his assumption that over the long term one would expect taxes as a share of GDP to rise as incomes and growth rise. However, this assumption can be flawed depending on the circumstances of each state, and also the development model adopted.

If you have adopted a private sector-led growth model, where the big investments are in infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing (as in the case of Gujarat), taxes may not rise in proportion to state GDP. Infrastructure investments (in ports, new cities, roads, power and rural water bodies) are typically long-gestation projects which may boost growth well ahead of tax revenues. For example, Gujarat’s investments in infrastructure will start paying off once the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor takes off, but the failures relate to slow progress upstream and downstream of Gujarat – in Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Agriculture, where Gujarat has seen a major spike, pays no taxes. Infrastructure such as ports will yield higher customs revenues as trade increases, but these go to the centre and do not accrue directly to the state (so, little rise in own tax revenues). The big investors in the state – Reliance, Essar and the automobile companies – have been lured in with huge tax incentives. The assumption is that they will generate more business and jobs than revenues for the exchequer in the initial stages. They will yield revenues only after their tax-free status ends.

Given this model of development, one would expect growth to precede revenue growth in Gujarat. And this is what may be happening. But we will have to suspend judgment on this for a few more years to check if it really does happen.

In contrast, Chhattisgarh’s revenues depend on mining, while the growth of states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has been led as much by services such as software as manufacturing and agriculture.  One should thus expect a different revenue-to-GDP skew in such cases. Services are, by definition, highly profitable, unlike infrastructure. Highly profitable service industries employing lakhs create local spends that boost OTR.

The real fallacy of the analysis lies in the fundamental assumption itself: that states should be judged not by growth or other parameters, but by revenues. While over the long term the correlation between economic activity and tax revenues may be positive, it may not be so if a state consciously seeks to give itself a more recessed role, by remaining more an enabler than a spender.

The downside of excess state spending can be seen at the centre today, where high fiscal and current account deficits have together brought growth itself down.

Another state that fares equally badly as Gujarat is Kerala – which is supposed to excel on human development indicators. Between 1990-99 and 2006-11, Kerala’s OTR-to-GDP ratio fell from 8.86 to 7.83 percent, a sharp one-percent drop, despite high growth rates driven by private spending.

Subramanian conveniently forgets to make this comparison, since Kerala-Gujarat comparisons are often otherwise made on social indicators to show Gujarat in bad light.

Both Kerala and Gujarat, for reasons that may be peculiar to them, have seen GDP growth but not high tax revenues shares in GDP.

More important is this truism: a ratio rises or falls not only on the basis of the numerator (taxes), but the denominator (GDP). If GDP is growing fine, the ratio will fall even if tax revenues are rising, but more slowly. As a metric, more is not necessarily better when it comes to taxes. What matters is the outcome – growth and equity. In fact, one can invert the OTR-GDP ratio to GDP-OTR to prove that Gujarat is growing faster on a lower government spend, and thus government is more efficient.

Perhaps worried that he may have made too big a point about tax revenues, Subramanian debunks his own argument partially and admits that “this might be a very misleading, even unfair, assessment,” since “Modi could argue – consistent with his right-of-centre ideology – that …he should be celebrated for delivering dream outcomes…”. These outcomes being small government and efficient government.

That is precisely the point. Modi’s critic has effectively demolished his own argument.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Insight: Gujarat’s Muslims In A Politically Correct Trap?

By Surjit Bhalla (Guest Writer)

Time for all PM candidates to end hostilities and present voters with choices about policies, programmes and performance.

The debate about Narendra Modi's economic record has just gone international (perhaps even viral!). In an October 27 editorial, the prestigious New York Times stated in an editorial: "His rise to power is deeply troubling to many Indians, especially the country's 138 million Muslims and its many other minorities. His economic record in Gujarat is not entirely admirable, either." Candidate Modi has changed the contours, and style, of the (presidential?) debate in India. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Exclusive: 'The Makeover And Marketing Of Narendra Modi'

By Siddharth Shukla / INN Bureau

The European diplomats gathered at the German ambassador's residence in New Delhi's lush green embassy enclave quizzed the guest of honour on everything from the economy and communal violence to his political ambitions. But nobody, the representatives from most of the 28 European Union states agreed, could publicly mention the man they were meeting that day: Narendra Modi, country's most controversial politician and, possibly, the next prime minister.

It was a moment that captures the paradox at the heart of Modi, and the caution with which the outside world approaches him. The January lunch at Ambassador Michael Steiner's residence ended a decade-long unofficial EU boycott of the 62-year-old politician, who had just won his third straight term as chief minister of Gujarat. The boycott stemmed from 2002 riots in Gujarat.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Inside BJP: Can Modi Lose Gujarat And Hope To Win India?


The BJP in Gujarat is tottering on Anandiben Patel’s watch. Modi knows that the 2017 Assembly elections in Gujarat will impact his chances in Delhi in 2019.

The recent speculation on a possible replacement for the Gujarat chief minister, ironically, comes at a times as Anandiben Patel completes two years on the job on May 22.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Straight Talk: Modi Myths Vs Hard Facts For India

While the Prime Minister is now exhorting the nation to set new standards in sanitation, his own record in Gujarat leaves much to be desired.

Offices of power are often breeding grounds of indestructible myths. And since the flavour of the current Indian season is Gujarat, focus is bound to be on this ‘model’ laboratory where Prime Minister Narendra Modi perfected the alchemy of success.

Like the legendary King Midas whose touch turned everything into gold, Modi possesses the uncanny ability of turning anything he propounds into a national crusade: whether it is Sardar Patel’s statue or the nation’s state of sanitation.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Why Narendra Modi Has More Realistic Chance In 2019?

By Avinash Avasthi / Delhi

For Narendra Modi‘s supporters there is nothing beyond the 2014 elections. So every alliance broken, every leader brushed aside and every political leader who criticises is meant to be set aside as the Gujarat Chief Minister’s campaign machinery rolls on towards the 2014 polls. But are the numbers against him?

In an excellent analysis of the ‘Modi phenomenon’ in India in the Indian Express, Ashutosh Varshney notes that the Gujarat Chief Minister would need to be a trailblazer of sorts rarely seen in India before and maybe his supporters and BJP are being a bit too hopeful of an impending victory in 2014.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Political Scenario: A 'Modi'-Fication' Of Indian Politics

By M H Ahssan | INN Live

The first time the world heard of Narendra Modi was following a 2002 religious pogrom in Gujarat - he was then, as now, the chief minister of the state. It is alleged that he fanned the flames of hatred by permitting the bodies of brutally slain members of a fundamentalist Hindu group to be paraded, and that he told the police to "let the Hindus vent their anger" on Muslims. 

Modi had of course taken an oath to uphold the Indian constitution, which includes the principles of protecting life and property. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Unhealthy Paradigm?

Consider this state in India: As much as 44.6 per cent of its children are malnourished. While Infant mortality rates have gone down, its decline has been slower than the national average. More than 65 per cent of its rural households and 40 per cent of its urban ones do not have access to latrines and they use open spaces for defecation. The state has 918 women for every 1,000 men, well below the national average. Poverty amongst urban Muslims is eight times (800 per cent) more than high-caste Hindus.

Clearly, this state should belong in the cluster of lesser-developed ones in India, such as Bihar or Madhya Pradesh. But it does not. In fact, it rubs shoulders with all the developed ones, such as Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Yet, it lags every one of them in human development. You have obviously guessed by now that the state is Gujarat, but you would have perhaps never imagined these dismal statistics, considering the state’s high-growth trajectory.

Take a walk with Neeta Hardikar, founder of NGO Anandi, which works amongst the Naiks, Bhils and Rathwas in the beautiful villages dotting the hills of Devgadh Baria and you will be impressed by both the spotlessness of the homes of these tribals as well as their open, engaging disposition. But this bucolic idyll masks a more alarming reality. Hardikar says that there have been 10 pregnancy-related deaths in these villages in just the last two months. There simply is no credible government infrastructure to provide extended healthcare. “Where are the benefits that this growth model is supposed to be giving us?” asks Hardikar.

It is not that the government does not have a health programme. If fact, the Chiranjeevi scheme, a public-private partnership (PPP) model, has made strides in addressing many of the health issues that have historically plagued Gujarat. There is just one problem with it: “The government has not done a bad job, but it has a very strong urban focus. Rural and remote tribal areas tend to be ignored,” says Leela Visaria, former professor and director of Gujarat Institute of Development Research. Handling health issues in this area is not an easy undertaking. The problems afflicting people here are complex and require innovative medical solutions. Many here have sickle cell anaemia and pregnant women often show up in delivery rooms with alarmingly low counts of haemoglobin. There is also a huge problem in convincing medical professionals to work in these areas.

Whether out of sheer neglect or unwilling candidates, the state-run Community Health Centre in the district that caters to 96 villages has had no gynaecologist or pediatrician for seven years. The maternity homes in Baria have no capabilities for blood transfusion or neo natal care and are without an anesthesiologist.

Godhra, the nearest town which is about 40 kilometres away, is the only option for anyone requiring critical care and even there, the state hospital does not have a gynaecologist. “There is a joke that there are probably only eight gynaecologists available to the public sector in Gujarat,” says Visaria.

In the education arena, the situation is equally bleak. According to NGO Pratham, school enrollment is up to 95 per cent in rural Gujarat, but learning levels remain shockingly low. Fifty five per cent of rural students in the fifth standard cannot read a second standard level text, and 65 per cent of these students cannot do simple subtraction. Many in the arena say that government school teachers come drunk or sit around playing cards. Hardikar, who runs a camp for children in Baria for 24 days a year, says that none of her fifth standard students can read alphabets.

And what of higher education? “It is a flop show,” says economist Y K Alagh. Colleges and universities are run by thugs and incompetent administrators with only the technical institutes showing some potential, according to social scientists based in Ahmedabad.

One reason for this dismal outlook is because the state has practically frozen employment and marginalized public sector workers. “Many people I know have two jobs. Go to any government office anywhere in Gujarat and I challenge you to not spot a stock-trading window opened up on someone’s computer,” says Visaria. Which brings us to another explanation: “There’s no great preference for education amongst the trading community,” says Professor Sebastian Morris at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

These ground realities have meant that Gujarat fares dismally in practically every human development index that has been generated recently. UNDP’s 2011 Inequality-adjusted Human Development Report 2011 has it at number seven, while dropping down even further in the sub-indices of health (10th rank) and education (9th rank). The India Human Development Report, 2011, brought out by the Institute of Applied Manpower Research says that Gujarat fares the worst in terms of overall hunger and nutrition among the industrial high per capita income states.

Economists like Aravind Panagariya has written that Gujarat is on the right track because its high growth will allow it to spend larger sums on the social sector. But Gujarat has been doing well for a long time now, yet its per capita state expenditure on health and education was Rs. 1148 and Rs.293 respectively, putting the state at 17th and 16th among the major 20 states in India, according to Professor Indira Hirway, Director and Professor of Economics at Center for Development Alternatives, Ahmedabad. With social sector expenditure consisting 37.8 percent of the total public expenditure, this fastest growing state ranked 15th among the major 20 states in India in spending on the social sector in that year.

When Narendra Modi was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal some time back about the surprisingly high rate of malnourishment in Gujarati women, his response was, “Gujarat is also a middle-class state. The middle class is more beauty conscious than health conscious – that is a challenge. If a mother tells her daughter to have milk, they’ll have a fight. She’ll tell her mother, ‘I won’t drink milk. I’ll get fat.’”

It’s difficult to tell whether the CM was partly joking or not, but the issue is no laughing matter considering the paradoxically ugly state of Gujarat’s social development when you consider its storied industrial growth.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Nitish or Modi - Who will make a better PM of India?

By M H Ahssan

When Narendra Modi threw his hat into the ring to become India's next prime minister, he never bargained for the fact that he would stumble on a skull cap. The now famous "cap incident" was a rare instance of spontaneity in a carefully choreographed Sadbhavna fast in Ahmedabad, when the Gujarat Chief Minister, in a gesture of spare-me-the-honour, rejected the cap offered by Maulana Hazrat Sufi Imam Sahi Sayeed Mehendi Husain. For a leader desperate to reach out to the Muslims of Gujarat and to Indians at large, that moment preserved by cameras was heavy with meaning, especially so when Modi displays a penchant for wearing a variety of colourful headgear that display the country's ethnic diversity.

The three-day amity fast was designed by India's most popular state administrator as a Gandhian short-cut to gain political acceptability needed for a national leader-and to announce his own ticket for the top job in 2014. The queue of BJP stalwarts, all as ambitious as Modi but with less credentials, was a sign of his rising clout as frontrunner. But when the curtain dropped on the drama, did Modi look merely desperate-an impatient player overdoing the part?

The question became inevitable as the noise accompanying the self-canonisation in Ahmedabad was in stark contrast to the silence in Patna. Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, shares only one passion with Modi: development. When Modi hard-sells his own mythology as a 21st century Sardar Patel who deserves a space larger than Gujarat, Nitish quietly waits in the wings, biding his time, patiently sure of himself. When Modi performs his way into front pages and onto prime time television, intimidating his colleagues in BJP and allies in NDA, Nitish takes backstage in Patna and refuses to supply the mandatory soundbites. If the flamboyance in Ahmedabad was divisive, the silence in Patna was reassuring. When the show was over and Modi had his lemonade, one man stood between him and his unhidden prime ministerial ambition: Nitish Kumar.

What is it that makes Modi, unarguably the most popular leader on the Right, a polarising figure in spite of his commendable achievement in bridging the communal divide in post-2002 Gujarat? Why is it that he is still a haunted man, forever struggling for acceptability beyond Gujarat? In opinion polls conducted by india today and even other publications, Modi consistently maintains his lead as India's best chief minister and the best possible prime minister in a non-upa government, but he still cannot take a break from the project of makeover: he is always a work in progress. Modi is trapped in his own image as an uncompromising Hindutva leader. That may be fine with the faithful but in India the gold standard of a right-wing prime minister was set by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the abiding embodiment of inclusive leadership.

Modi is still the proverbial hardliner, and hardline can get you success, not final success. Then, there is the legal labyrinth of riot-related cases which he continues to navigate, and it is unlikely that he or anyone knows till when. Modi has his rebuttal ready for the harrumphers. "When I took over, many felt I was too inexperienced to lead the government but today the same people say I have proved myself. So opinion can change over a period of time. But there is a vested interest group in India with intellectual ability that opposed Sardar Patel, Morarji Desai, Atalji, Advaniji and now me. So the belief that I am a polarising figure is not justified," he tells Newsindia.

This indomitable faith in himself is not totally misplaced, for he is still the BJP's best bet for 2014. A Modi showcased as India's best administrator with a mass base, and communication skills to match, will be a formidable force. His strength is Gujarat, as much as it is his curse. He now wants a bigger gallery to mount his bestselling portrait as a clean ruler and a development fanatic. Gujarat is the development model that industry moguls continue to toast and The Economist writes about. Under Modi's stewardship, the state has become an economic powerhouse whose growth rate is higher than the country's. Gujarat generates 16 per cent of India's industrial output and 22 per cent of its exports. From infrastructure to agriculture, from education to green technology, Gujarat has taken huge strides, showing the rest of India what focused leadership can achieve.

Says industrialist and president of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mahendra Patel: "Modi's greatest asset is his missionary spirit, which has forced the bureaucracy and industry to act. His development model has a trickle-down effect to the lowest levels." A tough administrator, he refused to slow down the drive against farmers indulging in theft to draw ground water for irrigation on the eve of the 2007 polls despite pressure from BJP MLAs. He has become an apostle of participative development. "If you look at India's past 40 years, you will find that ruling parties tailored their budget with a view to strengthen vote banks. They created models that made people dependent on Government. But in Gujarat, we rejected the vote-bank based model and created a new model," he says.

As an organiser and a campaigner who can play with the mass mind, he now wants to sell the slogan "Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas" to a wider audience. And within the BJP, in spite of the charioteer-in-chief Advani's refusal to retire from the roadshow, no one is more qualified to do so. As a senior BJP leader tells Newsindia, "Ultimately, who else is there?" Publicly, though, party leaders maintain that it is too early for the party to choose a prime ministerial candidate.

Arun Jaitley, in the run-up to the 2009 elections, had queered the pitch by endorsing Modi's name for prime ministership in 2014. Today the opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, who is himself emerging as a national leader worthy of the top job, says the focus is on putting the BJP house in order. "The elections are still three years away," he adds. Party president Nitin Gadkari too says no decision has been taken yet to project anybody as the prime minister candidate for 2014. "We have not decided on Narendrabhai's name. His fast was not to become the prime minister. It is to clear the misunderstanding about Gujarat," he says.

He admits that there are problems in endorsing Modi's name because of the 2002 riots taint. "He cannot do much about it" but the party is making efforts to focus more on his development agenda, administrative skills and dynamic leadership, he says. "If Modi can prove that he can defeat Congress by a decisive margin in the Assembly elections, it will become a little easier for him," Gadkari says. But he is categorical about the possibility of Nitish as usurper: "He may be a key ally but remains an outsider. No worker in the party will campaign for him." Will allies accept Modi? "Ultimately votes count. If we get more votes, allies will automatically come. BJP reaching 165-170 seats is important. And when you go to war, you go with your best General. Modi is the best General that the party has," says a senior party leader.

The General must first win the war within. Modi has hardly been on talking terms with Gadkari ever since rss pracharak Sanjay Joshi was reinducted into the party to strengthen BJP in Uttar Pradesh against the Gujarat strongman's wishes. His weight-reducing bariatric surgery was a well-timed excuse for the party boss to avoid the photo-op with Modi during the Sadbhavna mission. Sushma Swaraj, who made it to Ahmedabad, was visibly uncomfortable in the company of the man who she thinks is responsible for her stint in the wilderness after her defeat from Bellary in 1999. Party insiders feel that Modi agreed to give a Rajya Sabha berth to Smriti Irani only to counter Swaraj.

Apart from Advani, Jaitley is the only central leader with whom Modi enjoys a good rapport, though Jaitley himself has prime ministerial ambitions. The rss is already working on a succession plan for Gujarat as Modi is convinced that he deserves an office higher than the one he occupies now. The new generation, swayed by the political zeitgeist, is sceptical about the Modi brand. "While the youth of the country may be on a warpath against corruption, demanding an honest administration, they are also looking for a more inclusive social structure. In this day and age, Modi may never be able to wish away the 2002 blot. It is there to stay. The party will have to do better than a Modi," says a young BJP leader.

That is why Modi's desperation is Nitish's hope. Parties like TDP, Biju Janata Dal and agp-traditionally anti-Congress but wary of alienating minority support in BJP's company-would be happy embracing NDA if Nitish Kumar is at the helm. Apart from his proven record in winning Muslim votes, he is winning, like Modi, in the politics of development as well. As an administrator, he has addressed critical areas ranging from restoration of law and order to health, educational services and building roads.

As a leader, he has pushed targeted social welfare schemes. According to his acolytes, if Nitish can make Bihar a functional state, he has the potential to change India too on behalf of NDA. Nitish's biggest disadvantage, though, is his electoral base. He may have the credibility and character to become a national leader, but JD-U, with only 20 members in 543-memberLok Sabha, is not a political force beyond Bihar. Though he has a good political chemistry with leaders like Naveen Patnaik, no regional satrap has come forward to propose his leadership.

The biggest roadblock for him will be Modi himself. With less than six months' age difference-the elder of the two, Modi, turned 61 only last week-the two can neutralise each other. There is no love lost between the two. The relationship worsened on May 10, 2009 when Modi, during an NDA rally at Ludhiana, clasped Nitish Kumar's hand and forcibly raised it as a show of solidarity.

Many considered it as Modi's revenge because Nitish had earlier scuttled Modi's plans for campaigning in Bihar for the Lok Sabha elections. Senior jd-u leaders seeking anonymity maintain that Nitish is mentally prepared to pull the plug on the alliance if Modi is named the BJP's prime ministerial candidate. With 117 jd-u MLAs in the 243-member Bihar assembly-besides a handful of Independent supporters-he thinks he can afford to take the risk. (BJP is his ally in Bihar.) Nitish has succeeded in keeping Bihar offlimits for Modi.

Since taking over as Bihar Chief Minister in November 2005, Nitish has put his foot down on Modi campaigning in the state. Nitish does not even mention Modi's name on public platforms, and considers the Gujarat chief minister as a communal leader unacceptable to his inclusive brand of politics. In June 2010, Nitish raged against advertisements carrying a picture of them together at Ludhiana which were placed in Bihar newspapers by Modi supporters. The advertisements had boasted about Gujarat's flood-relief aid to Bihar. Nitish took no time to withdraw his dinner invitation to BJP top brass then present in Patna for BJP's national executive meet.

He not only refused to attend the BJP rally held at the conclusion of the meet but also returned the Rs 5 crore given by the Gujarat government. Besides derailing the BJP's national executive meet, Nitish almost rocked the alliance. He knows that BJP cannot afford to lose someone like him who continues to be wooed by the Congress. He now hopes to keep Delhi inaccessible to his rival, though, while talking to Newsindia, he is characteristically diplomatic: "The BJP is yet to officially declare anyone as its prime ministerial candidate. We can express our opinion only after an announcement is made."

The opinion is unlikely to please Modi. Come 2014 and it will be a clash between the socialist and the saffronite in the opposition for the highest political position. It will be a battle to behold.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Investigation: The Great Indian Crop 'Fertilizer Robbery'

By M H Ahssan Niloufer Khan

Big business houses are diverting subsidized fertilizers meant for poor farmers. INN exposes a shocking collusion that is costing the country crores of rupees. 

Every year, the government spends anywhere between Rs 70,000-Rs 90,000 crore in subsidies to ensure affordable fertilizers for farmers to enable them to get a good yield. Yet, curiously, food grain production has not seen much increase, while farmers still continue to complain about unaffordable fertilizers.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Counterpoint: Should Indian CBI Uncover The IB?

By Arun Jaitley (Guest Writer)

The myopic political regime in Delhi has not realized the significance of destroying institutions. Harass Gujarat government even if it means destroying India's security apparatus: the object of the Congress party is clear.

The misuse of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the UPA government has been repeatedly commented upon. This misuse is essentially for a political purpose. Not only has this seriously damaged the credibility of the CBI but has also lowered the level of professionalism in the organization. The gathering of evidence during investigation has seriously suffered. Investigations are increasingly becoming tainted with a political motive. The conviction rate in CBI cases has declined.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Exclusive: The Indian 'NaMo Parivar' Growing In America

By Sarah Williams / INN Bureau

The importance of the NRIs and NRGs — for the BJP and Modi — is growing. The controversy that has been raging about Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's US visa suggests that for the BJP, the United States is particularly important — and this is even truer for Gujarat.

This is largely due to the upgrading of political, educational (some 1,00,000 Indian students are enrolled in US universities) and economic bilateral relations over the last 10 years or so. But it also derives from the assertion of the Indian diaspora in the US. Not only has the number of Indian Americans doubled in less than two decades to cross the 3 million figure, but these NRIs also form the most wealthy community in the US as a result of their achievements as entrepreneurs (and CEOs), engineers and professionals (including doctors and lawyers). Their household income is almost twice the US national average.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Shocking Revolution: India’s Dalits Strike Back At Centuries Of Oppression By Letting Dead Cows Rot On The Streets


India’s growing band of cow-protection vigilantes and their political bosses may have learnt a lesson in the past few days: Bullying can boomerang.

Politics over the cow, deemed holy by many Hindus, has roiled India for years. In recent times, it has turned nasty, with Indians lynching or humiliating fellow Indians on mere suspicion of having killed cows or eaten beef.

In the latest instance, four young men skinning a dead cow, along with another aged person, were mercilessly thrashed by a group of cow-protection vigilantes in Gujarat’s Una on July 11.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Now, Prince Williams Replaced Bachchan In Gujarat Ads

By Paagal Patrkaar / Delhi

Gujarat government has decided to replace Amitabh Bachchan with Prince William as the brand ambassador for Gujarat tourism. This decision was made after DNA testing revealed that Prince William’s great-great-great-great-great grandmother Eliza Kewark hailed from Gujarat and was half-Indian.

Making this announcement, a Gujarat tourism spokesperson said, “We had a good run with  Bachchan but now situation has changed a little bit. Future King of England has Gujarati genes in him and we need to capitalize on that.

Monday, April 01, 2013

'Gujarat Will Be Declared A Hindu State By 2015'

VHP will declare Gujarat a ”Hindu state” by 2015 besides having its presence in all 18,000 villages of the state in the next two years, the outfit’s leader Praveen Togadia claimed.

“In two years, the VHP will have a presence in all 18,000 villages of Gujarat and by 2015, we will declare Gujarat a Hindu state,” VHP’s international working president Pravin Togadia told VHP followers who gathered here for a ‘Hindu Sangam’ event.

The event was organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to launch a new movement called ‘Hindu Ahead, for Hindu Security and Prosperity’, which aims to reach out to Hindus in villages, towns, cities and tribal areas.

Invoking the issue of the “insecure Hindu”, Togadia said, “To protect and prosper, Hindus themselves have to gear up, by becoming true practicing Hindus, aware Hindus and active Hindus.”

The absence of Narendra Modi at the function was conspicuous though the VHP organised the event in the area which falls in the Gujarat Chief Minister’s constituency. In the past, the Gujarat VHP has been at loggerheads with Modi over a range of issues including demolition of illegal temples in Gandhinagar and Ahmadabad.

The VHP, through its ‘Hindu Sangam’ announced plans for the resurrection of the organisation, which would celebrate 50 years of its inception in 2014. Raising the issue of Ram Mandir, Togadia said, “Unless and until we will become Hindus, not only by our behaviour, but with our practice and awareness, only then will our dream of building Ram Mandir at Ayodhya be fulfilled.”

VHP’s joint organisational secretary Vinayakrao Deshpande talked about dwindling support for the outfit in Gujarat. He mentioned that 10 years ago there were more than 10,000 committees in the state which has come down to 6,000 at present.

“We will have to bring that to 10,000 by this year end,” Deshpande said. Jagruti Pandya, wife of former Gujarat Minister of State for Home Haren Pandya, was also present at the gathering along with some Gujarat Parivarta Party (GPP) members.

Meanwhile, former VHP leader Atul Vaidya — one of the accused in the Gulberg massacre case — alleged that Togadia had “ignored” them for all these years. “VHP workers who were made accused in rioting cases have been passing through social and financial problems. Where was Togadia during all these years? He is spending lakhs of rupees for this ‘Hindu Sangam’ but he didn’t have money to support us,” Vaidya told reporters here, earlier in the day.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Stroy Of Narendra Modi: From 'Chaiwallah' To PM-Pick

By Narersh Patel / Ahmedabad

For one who sold tea as a boy at a railway station in Gujarat, Narendra Modi has had a meteoric rise in Indian politics, catapulting from an untested chief minister of 2001 to the prime ministerial candidate in just 12 years.

Wedded to Hindutva - or the ideology of Hindu nationalism - from a young age, the 62-year-old Gujarat strongman, who evokes emotions like no other politician, is uncompromising vis-à-vis his goals, with an ability to transform every adversity into an opportunity, colleagues say.