10 years ago, on 07Oct Narendra Damodardas Modi stepped into the Chief Minister’s office. Till then he was an RSS pracharak and a General Secretary of the BJP. The man who was entrusted with an important responsibility was faced with the most devastating start any incumbent could ask – the earthquake and the unfortunate riots.
If it was anyone else, given the difficult situation on hand, and multiple pulls and pressures of holding the most important public office in a State, it is likely he would have fallen short on people’s expectation and would have been voted out of the office. That did not happen. On the contrary, the people of Gujarat entrusted him with the job of governance on more than one occasion.
The last ten years have seen unprecedented political stability in Gujarat. When compared to the decade that preceded Narendra Modi’s tenure, which saw eight Chief Ministers come and go, Mr Modi’s term stands out. Development and economic progress have been the cornerstone of his administration. What really caught me by surprise is this malicious piece by Mr Dipankar Gupta, a former professor of JNU crediting the Congress for everything in the decade that preceded Mr Modi’s rule. Obviously in his exuberance to appear more loyal than the king he forgot to check that starting 1995, the BJP ran the State Government (which is six out of the ten years Mr Gupta refers to).
Or, more specifically, between 1989 and 1995, the Congress was leading the Government for just one year.Not only that, Mr Gupta’s figures are dubious and misleading. He says
In 1991, a full 10 years before Modi arrived; as many as 17,940 out of 18,028 villages were already electrified.
Before Modi arrived, electrification was defined as having one electric point in a village. Under Modi’s regime it is defined as 10% of the village households to be electrified. From being a power deficient state 10 years ago, Gujarat now has power surplus. Per capita power consumption in Gujarat under Modi's regime is 1331 Kw as compared to 672 kw for India.
Notwithstanding Mr Gupta’s efforts to make light of Modi’s developmental work, he had to grudgingly acknowledge his role in turning around the State electricity board (something not many State Governments have achieved), which resulted in round the clock electricity. Speak to people in Gujarat and they will tell you that they started receiving uninterrupted power only in Modi’s regime.
Similarly, to say that the Sardar Sarovar project, which was commissioned in 2002 meant that Modi benefited from something he had not conceived is travesty of facts. The Sardar Sarovar project did not end with the dam being built. In fact it was just the beginning of activities like interlinking rivers, building canals and ensuring that water reaches the intended beneficiaries. In the last decade, agriculture has grown at 10% per annum as a result of Gujarat’s investment in scientific farming, rain water harvesting and linking its rivers. Agricultural income has increased from Rs 90bn in 2002 to Rs 500bn in 2010. The increased ground water level meant that use of electricity for agricultural purposes reduced to 22% (from 45% earlier).
This is a state that was arid and drought-prone before Modi took over and now is exporting cotton, and vegetables like okra and tomatoes. Yield of food grains in Gujarat has gone up to 1581 kgs/hectare from 1186 kgs/hectare.
Obviously these are details that Mr Gupta has conveniently glossed over because it doesn’t perhaps fit in his worldview of what economic development is. As a professor he should have been more rigorous especially with so much of verifiable data. Development isn’t about doing a thing here and there. It is an integrated approach to problem solving and Modi has repeatedly demonstrated his capabilities in this respect.
Gujarat has no doubt been a progressive State but to undermine Mr Modi’s achievements is being partisan and motivated. During 2002-07, industry in Gujarat grew at 12.5% (India’s manufacturing growth – 8%). 2005-10 saw Gujarat’s real GDP growth at 11.3% (India – 8.7%), which has outpaced the growth of some of the larger states like Haryana (11%), Bihar (9.6%) and Karnataka (8.5%). Not to forget that Gujarat’s growth is on what is already a large base.
The PMO, Chief of Planning Commission, Cabinet Ministers, CMs of various states, Supreme Court, leading international magazines like Economist and Daily Times have on several occasions praised the State’s progress under Mr Modi. The fact that the biggest automobile companies have chosen to drive into Gujarat is only a mirage for the likes of Mr Gupta. In Gujarat they see the future of India but Mr Gupta obviously has chosen to be selective. That he did not provide comparative data for 2001-11 says a lot about the objectivity of the piece.
Gujarat, as we see today, is strikingly different from rest of the country – industrious and progressive. Not to take away from the entrepreneurial DNA of the people of Gujarat, the growth and prosperity we see is greatly facilitated by the political acumen on Narendra Modi. The State’s growth has a distinct stamp of his vision of “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”. The State has been a catalyst in the growth and has ensured that it provides a corruption free and responsive administration. Modi’s administration has ensured that it focuses on manufacturing, services and agriculture in equal measure and is driven by a long term vision rather than short term political expediency. The State under Mr Modi has clearly stated policies for Governance and has ensured that they are applied uniformly notwithstanding who is benefiting from them. It has focused on developing and improving the human resources index as much as it has focused on developing an integrated infrastructure.
While the rest of India is hamstrung because of multiple scams, a paralytic Government and an incoherent approach to policy making, Gujarat stands out for its long term vision and impeccable execution. It is therefore not difficult to imagine that the performance indicators of Gujarat are as impressive as they are. Numbers apart, good governance is lot about perception. What does the common man feel? Does he feel that the state is working for the betterment of his life ? Are the resources of the state easily accessible to him minus enduring the humiliation meted out by a corrupt administration? Does he have opportunities to make a living and therefore improve his life ?
Even a cursory travel of Gujarat is enough to confirm that the growth is real. It’s visible in the vibrant real estate market, increased employment opportunities, enhanced agricultural income, and empowerment particularly of the women and equal opportunity for all.
Gujarat’s growth in the last decade is attributed to Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s dynamism, vision and focus on growth.
Lest you accuse me of glossing over the 2002 riots, which is often held against Mr Modi, let me state that for me Gujarat riots started with the burning of the coach in Sabarmati Express carrying Karsevaks and ended horribly with the riots. To me those burnt in the coach and victims of riots (both Hindus and Muslims) need justice. All riots whether in Gujarat, Sikh riots of 1984, Meerut, Maliana, Hyderabad or Bhagalpur, without exception are a national shame. However, justice to the riot victims has to be delivered through courts and those guilty punished. The Gujarat Government has perhaps done more (read this post for more) for the riot victims as compared to any other State or Governments in the past. The Left Liberal academic and media nexus however has constantly tried, without success, to move the agenda from justice for the victims to “getting” the CM, against whom they have run a sustained campaign of calumny.
My view on Narendra Modi’s culpability in the riots is the same as that of Supreme Court, which has sent back the cases to the trial court without making any observation on Mr. Modi. The law will take its course but the fact that Narendra Modi made himself available for questioning, something no leader including Bharat Ratna Rajiv Gandhi did, puts him in the league of distinguished men.
Be critical of Modi by all means, but give him credit where it is due. Pass judgments but don’t malign him for things that are not yet proven. At the end the people will decide. Gujarat has given its verdict, India may do the same, too.
Amit Malviya is a friend of CRI. You can follow the author at @malviyamit