Cutting Narendra Modi some slack

Gujarat and Narendra Modi invoke extreme reactions from most people I know. For some, Gujarat and Gujaratis can only be looked at through the prism of 2002 and for others, Modi has transformed Gujarat and 2002 doesn’t merit the media attention it gets

Anirudha Dutta
Published: 19, Oct 2012

Anirudha Dutta is former head of research at CLSA India Limited, a leading foreign brokerage house. While every number tells a story, there are many stories beyond numbers and both are equally important. This blog will attempt to tell some of these stories.

Gujarat and Narendra Modi invoke extreme reactions from most people I know. For some, Gujarat and Gujaratis can only be looked at through the prism of 2002 and for others, Modi has transformed Gujarat and 2002 doesn’t merit the media attention it gets. Dinesh Narayanan, Senior Editor, recently did a cover story in Forbes India on Modi. Like many other liberal-minded friends of mine, a few paragraphs into his story, he says, “In my mind, like that of many Indians, Narendra Modi is inextricably linked to February 2002…”

This blog is not to criticise Dinesh’s cover story, but to look at some of the shortcomings of Narendra Modi, as mentioned in the article, which I admit is more balanced than most others that one normally reads. It is also to write about some of my own experiences since we need “a more well-informed debate on the nature of leadership, government and society,” as Indrajit Gupta wrote in his editorial in the same issue of the magazine.

“Wherever you look, the leader is on extravagant display,” writes Dinesh. Noted historian Ramachandra Guha has also written in similar vein in one of his columns. In 2011, I travelled to Gujarat thrice for about a week to understand the story of Gujarat and in the cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Anand I did not see any extravagant display of Narendra Modi. In fact, what had then struck me was how remarkably absent political posters were in the skyline of those cities. Contrast that to the disgusting skyline in Mumbai, where politicians of cutting across party lines illegally put up posters throughout the year. A campaign by Mumbai Mirror had no impact whatsoever.

Yes, the few posters that I saw had the pictures of Narendra Modi. But why should that be surprising or frowned upon? Every Congress poster has the picture of the Gandhi family and every DMK poster has the pictures of Karunanidhi and his extended clan and no poster of Trinamool Congress can be put up without the picture of Mamata Banerjee. What is so extravagant about Modi’s pictures that this is objected to? And as far as extravagant displays are concerned, who can beat the Nehru-Gandhi family where government funds are used on every occasion to celebrate the birth and death anniversaries of a select few past prime ministers of India and every major road, airport is named after some member of the family?

Dinesh has written about the conference where farmers have been sponsored by private companies. So what? This is the hallmark of Modi’s style of working and getting sponsorship from corporate sector in a transparent fashion should be encouraged. I remember a company based in Gujarat telling me that they never had to pay any bribes but once they were called and asked to beautify the garden at one of the universities or some such public building. Any conference or big event will have to be choreographed and done professionally. Gujarat is leading the way in that.

The Modi government apparently stopped all advertisements to VTV, a TV channel, as per the Forbes cover story. Every media house in every state in this country has faced similar issues. Outlook had done a similar story on Nitish Kumar and Bihar some time ago (How to build a reputation), wherein the magazine said that Kumar was throwing cash at the press. I do not agree with the Outlook story. having travelled through Bihar to witness what Nitish Kumar and the JD(U)-BJP government has achieved. But I mention it to make the point that every government to an extent exercise some control on the media through the advertisements it doles out. The same is being done by the Centre. I am sure many would have noticed how some TV channels turned subtly (and not-so-subtly) against Anna Hazare’s Jan Lok Pal movement masterminded by Arvind Kejriwal and others. and coincidentally started getting generous advertisements from the central government.

“One by one, every senior leader in the Sangh Parivar has been made irrelevant,” writes Dinesh. In 2011, during my visit I had heard the same thing. And I thought that this was great. I do not agree with the thoughts and outlook of people like Pravin Togadia or the poison they spread in our society, as I do not like sundry self-styled guardians of public morality that barge into pubs in Mangalore and beat up helpless women. I was also told that Modi has not appointed any political person to the chairmanships of various state bodies and state owned enterprises. This has rubbed many in the wrong way.

Media, particularly liberal media, should be celebrating these stories. Imagine if the likes of Togadia had a larger say in the way Gujarat is run or in its administration. All secularists should be thrilled that the Sangh Parivar has been marginalised. In fact, as Dinesh has written, Modi has gone and created a back-up for the party organisation at the ground level. The biggest critics of BJP highlight its links to the VHP-RSS, but Modi coming from an RSS background, has de-linked them from the administration and also from electoral politics in Gujarat for all practical purposes. In the 2007 elections, the RSS cadres did not work for the party. Is this good or bad?

Another point that Dinesh makes is that instead of ministers, bureaucrats are running the government. It indeed is so because discretionary powers have been minimised and the rules are same for everyone. The larger problem in India today is one of governance and too much of discretionary power that serves vested interests. In Gujarat, by all accounts, that has been minimised. Sure, the state exercises its discretionary powers to reach out to Ratan Tata and offered concessions to move Tata Motors's Nano plant to Sanand. But that is an exception compared to what we see elsewhere. Whether it is coal allocation, spectrum allocation and dubious land deals, they are all a result of discretionary powers being exercised.

Dinesh also mentions a very interesting statistic: the number of educated job-seekers registered with the employment exchanges rose by 16% in the last five years. When we had looked at the data from employment exchanges in 2011, the last report available was from February 2009 and the data pertained to 2007. The data showed that over 45% of the vacancies notified were from Gujarat and Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu accounted for another 20%. These three states accounted for 65% of all the vacancies notified in the country. where of Dec 2007, there were 965 employment exchanges. In fact the employment exchange in Chitradurga in Karnataka, the iron ore boom town, had not been able to provide a single job in the preceding four years. Believable?

The conclusion I draw is not that Gujarat is not creating enough jobs (it is a fact that India as a whole is not creating enough jobs and Gujarat may just be better than other states), but employment exchanges in most states are defunct. Gujarat is probably one of the few states where the employment exchanges still function and to an extent fulfil a need! Of course the numbers that I am quoting and Dinesh has quoted are two different things.

Let me move to some of my experiences. We often organise investor trips to various states and getting meetings with the government is a big pain in the backside. The only exception was Gujarat, where one letter and one phone call was enough to get the government machinery moving. I had to go only once to meet the MD of IndextB (Industrial Extension Bureau) and he asked me two questions, “What do you want us to do?” and “How will Gujarat benefit from this?” After my reply I was told that the visit of our delegation was confirmed and the Chief Secretary would address the delegates and they could not assure the CM's availability. All with clinical efficiency. I was out of his office in ten minutes.

A month later our visit was undertaken. By the time I reached the airport after the meetings, all the presentations that were made by different department secretaries had been emailed to me in zip files, without even my asking for it. Which other state government does this?

And I have to tell another story.

A couple of months back, I met a person engaged in low-cost housing. I asked him about his experience in different states. His reply was that except Gujarat, everywhere else there was no end to the amount of bribes being demanded. In one state, he said, a document was signed by 326 people because everyone wanted a share of the expected bribe! Contrast this to Gujarat, where according to him, once land is bought, you can develop it the way you want without any restrictions. No discretionary powers on how FSI can be increased. The rules are the same for everyone, it is not industry-specific, sector-specific or industrialist-specific. 50% or more of the land is given back to the original owners after development so that they get a share of the value appreciation. Another wonderful initiative is that if a property is registered in the name of a woman only, then no stamp duty is charged. Where most governments and political parties pay lip service to women’s empowerment, Gujarat is showing the way.

I could go on.

A senior BJP politician (no longer in the party) once told me that the only problem with Modi is that he is autocratic. He also seems intolerant of any criticism. Exactly what Dinesh has also written. And after a decade of insipid, indecisive and venal leadership, much of India may well want a decisive and clean  leader. It is for these characteristics alone that all polls still show Indira Gandhi as India’s best or most popular Prime Minister. But Modi will have to change if he has to take a coalition along with him or he will have to wait for the BJP to get 240+ seats in the general elections. However, this is true: we do need his developmental model where both industry and agriculture can flourish. And his true test of leadership and legacy will come if and when he indeed moves to the Centre, whether Gujarat is able to continue to demonstrate the same efficiency in governance or not.

PS: Why did I write all this? I wrote this because quite often in recent times there have been erroneous stories on Gujarat. Two of them have come to my notice. One was a Business Standard op-ed by A K Bhattacharya (read The Gujarat gaffe: social media calls the bluff). The second one was a more recent one on IndiaSpend, where the headline read “Gujarat has highest women dropout rate in higher education”. On being pointed, the headline was changed later to “Gujarat has highest reduction in women enrolment in higher education.” I wonder why these mistakes are happening when reporting on Gujarat.

  • Dr.A.Jagadeesh

    Excellent story on Narendra Modiji and his administration. Here is my Experience with Narendra Modiji's administration. I sent over 50 REGISTERED POST letters along with enclosures on utilising waste lands to grow care-free growth plants like Agave and Opuntia for biofuel/biogas to Our Prime Minister,Union Ministers,Many Chief Ministers etc. Except from Gujarat Chief Minister's Office there is not even an acknowledgement from others. The Gujarat Government is considering my plan. Gone are the days during the time of Mrs. Indira Gandhiji as Prime Minister, public suggestions were given top priority. I had hundreds of letters addressed to Prime Minister(Mrs. Indira Gandhiji) and a reply used to come within a week. Action initiated at the highest level. Indeed Mrs. Indira Gandhiji was a PEOPLE'S PRIME MINISTER. I was a Great Admirer and Follower of her. Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    on Oct 30, 2013
  • sanjay mahajan

    i m great fan and supporter of narender modi jee

    on Oct 21, 2013
  • Talal

    Well regardless of how "modest" his campaining strategy the fact is, there is no justification of Modi's and his minions atrocities towards gujrati muslims The blogger has clearly failed to mention that muslims are subject to discrimination when buying properties in gujrat. So the mentioned rights/prevlidges are relevant if you are a hindu Its a wonder how india remains a commonwealth after such breaches in democracy.

    on Mar 26, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Talal, My apologies that I had missed your comment. You should look at the origins of the Disturbed Areas Act in Gujarat and see its history to understand what has happened. It wasn't Modi or BJPs doing. All successive government's have let the Act be. I can easily imagine the comments on how Modi wants to snatch land away from minorities even if he wanted to repeal the Act. I was pointed to this Act by a Muslim gentleman in Ahmedabad and he blamed the Congress for it. I have written about it elsewhere on the net and if you google in my name you may find the article. Like the earlier government's, the BJP govt has kept adding areas under this Act.

      on Oct 16, 2013
  • Saif

    By and large the Gujrati People are good business people, hardworking and god fearing and honest. Remember Bombay (State) (Mumbai - Maharashtra now) - the Chief Minister was Shri Morarji Desai and was from Gujarat and was a strict and honest person.

    on Mar 20, 2013
  • Saif

    Tata Motors’s Nano plant in Sanand. At whos cost was the land given so cheap?

    on Mar 20, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Saif, Thanks for your question. It is a standard practice world over to attract investments and industry to give concessions since in the longer run it creates jobs, develops societies and the commercial establishments pays various kinds of taxes. States and nations compete with each other in this respect. It would have been wrong to do this for Nano if Modi or BJP took money in their own account, in other words if there were corruption and scams. Modi's worst critics also do not accuse him or his government of large scale corruption. One Nano project has attracted so many other auto projects into Gujarat and it is quite likely that over the next decade Gujarat emerges into an important auto hub.

      on Oct 16, 2013
    • Mohan Menon

      Who is benefiting from additional employment opportunities, feedder industries, excise duties etc

      on Oct 15, 2013
  • vijaysarkar

    Modi has done commendable work in his State & is definitely fit to run the country.

    on Feb 25, 2013
  • Vishy Iyer

    Aniruddh, Second blog of yours that i am readng. Very impressed and you have brought out the facts without getting too emotional. I agree with you completely. I have heard similar strories from business men in Gujarat and when I hear what happens in stats like TN (my hme state) the difference is stark. Also the infrastructure in Gujarat is beyond compare. 24 hr electricity even in villages when most of India has learnt to live with scheduled power cuts. All said I still fel in the end that Modi will be denied a chance of becmong PM. I will cover that in my blog and will invite your commentson that! Vish

    on Jan 19, 2013
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Vishy, Thanks for your comment and I do look forward to reading your blog. I was in Gujarat again just before the last phase of elections and it is interesting to interact with a wide cross-section of people (including Muslim businessmen) and hear what they have to say. It's so different from what you hear/ see/ read in mainstream media. I was amused, for example, to read that there is no media freedom in Gujarat. If that were true, how was Congress running all those ads on TV channels (except in NaMo TV) through the day saying Gujarat has not progressed etc etc.

      on Jan 21, 2013
  • suresh

    Well written without any prejudice.Though not Gujarati, I have lived in Gujarat for almost 50 years. I was there when Modi was just a Pracharak .I was there in 2002 when riots took place and saved a predominant Muslim ghetto.After three days of earthquake I was in kutch where the recovery has been amazing. Modi's style is working is autocratic but benevolent.What is the use of a leader who does not do anything but appease a family or dynasty. One has to live among Gujaratis to know the real contribution of Modi to the state. Yes randomly his remarks are from the trash bag. A very Good write up

    on Nov 7, 2012
    • anirudha dutta

      Suresh, Thank you very much for yourinsightful comments. It is stroies like these that gives faith in what we hear about Mr. Modi and also what we see happening in Gujarat during our all too brief visits. I also agree with you that in today's day and age of a connected world, one cannot tailor make one's comnets to any particular audience, as one could in the earlier days, and any political leader has to be very careful of what he or she utters irrespective of where they are and who they are addressing.

      on Nov 9, 2012
  • dinker vashisht

    Bingo! Anirudha's blog tells me more about the 'cover story'. I had read the Forbes Cover storymultiple times and it appeared that the journalist went to Gujarat with jaundiced eyes. While scepticism is always a good journalist's hallmark, they need to have large heartedness, not to reduce themselves to some ambiguous criticism.

    on Oct 27, 2012
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Thank you, Dinker.

      on Oct 27, 2012
  • Chirag Shah

    I agree. Author has done true research and not relied on paid news.

    on Oct 23, 2012
    • Anirudha Dutta

      Thank you, Chirag. If you have any personal experience to share, please do so.

      on Oct 23, 2012
  • surya kumar

    People who still keep talking about 2002 in 2012 are those who do not like to see India Shinning Again. The Authors have no qualms is striking against Modi every two days whereas they cringe and fear to write one article against The FUTURE P.M Mr Rahul Gandhi who does not even know his multiplication tables. One thing you guys keep forgetting is "" People of India are not idiots to be fooled around"".

    on Oct 22, 2012
  • Hemant Dubey

    I have lived in Gujarat for a long time and I have seen many positive changes under Narendra Modi's rule. I was literally surprised when no one asked for any bribe for giving me driving license. I had all papers in place and the license was delivered with in the time as promised. I was really surprised whether I am in India or somewhere else. Narendra Modi needs to be prime minister of India and whole India should benefit from his no nonsense leadership. Why should Gujratis have all the good things:). I will oppose Narendra Modi tooth & nail if I see him doing any wrong like all people in Congress do but I dont think he has done anything wrong. Quality of life in Gujarat has improved a lot. I salute the man for his leadership & positive changes.

    on Oct 21, 2012
    • anirudha dutta

      Thanks, Hemant. I remember meeting the members of SEWA. Most of them were from a rural background. And I could see how the expectations from their state government has gone up over a period of time. They were no longer happy with internet connection in the panchayat office but wanted it in their homes. That is the aspiration that is there all around Gujarat.

      on Oct 22, 2012

    three years ago, I was travelling with a Gujarathi Muslim in a train from Madurai to Mumbai. He was having trading business in both Ahmedabad and Madurai. He dismissed the whole idea of Modi's communalism and Gujarath riots saying that it has lost relevance in 2010 since much water has flown under the Sabarmati. He says the Gujarath govt. knows its job and does it very efficiently. He says that what interests people whether Hindus, Muslims or christians or anybody what matters is "sadak, Pani and Bijlee. common man does not bother about whether you are a majority or a minority community. We all want good governance and whoever does that will get his votes, says the Muslim Gentleman. It is the bad Politician who has nothing else to do talks of majority and minority. Dinesh is to be complimented for his true courageous reporting on Modi and Gujarath.

    on Oct 20, 2012
    • anirudha dutta

      Thanks, Ramesh, for your feedback. That is very similar to what I heard in Juhupura and have mentioned that as an anecdote in my reply to Dinesh's comment on my blog. The divide and rule policy of the British has been well adopted by many of today's political class.

      on Oct 22, 2012
  • Anon

    I am employed by a private firm and recently transferred to Gujarat. My work requires me to travel rural areas regularly to meet customers. The development that I have witnessed is startling. 24 hours electricity, solar street lamps, the quality of state highways comparable to our famed golden quadrilateral etc. The development is pervasive and not limited to one social or religious group. There is all round prosperity. It is one thing to hear of all this in the media and another to witness it personally. Yes 2002 is a blot and will always be, but no one can deny that Gujarat is leading the way and setting an example of how things should be done. Its funny how all the criticism for Modi in the media peaks just before the election season. May be contrarian oped's pique interest or sell.

    on Oct 20, 2012
    • anirudha dutta

      Thanks, Anon, for your insightful comment. This is what reality is.

      on Oct 21, 2012
  • drrkdgoed

    I worked in Meerut villages from 1955 in Late Chaudhary Charan Singh Constituency Baghpat as Block development Officer 57 years back. Those days were different when the people were honest and farmers were innocents they were not knowing what is corruption. Five years plans started from 1952. There was three tiers Panchayat Raj. Peoples used to respect the Govt. servants. We were available all the time to solve the problems of villagers / farmers. Now the time is changed. Dirty politicians started comming in politics. Money power is only now working to become a Councilor / MLA / MP /Minister /CM /PM. Modiji still far far better as a clean politician. With out autocracy one can't do any development. see how Partap Sigh karo develop Punjab in 1955 when Punjab and Haryana was one state. So if Modiji is some what autocrat it is not wrong. For development one need his / her people to agree with him. If people go on to oppose of all the the proposals of a CM how one can take decesions. Every one want his yes men with him. So Modiji working may be having some mistakes but as a whole he is doing right work for the development of Gujarat State in his own way.

    on Oct 19, 2012
  • drrkdgoed

    I fully agree with Mr. Dinesh article. The people of Gujarat due to vested propoganda against Mr. Narendra Modi have developed phobia of Modiji. This is wrong in my case. I used to write mistakes of Modiji by E-mails / letters to him and I got replies of my all letters from CMO even by name. But I used to write right critics of Modiji with out fear which other person have no courage to write against against Modiji. When people read my letters from CMO all wonder how you dare to write to Modi and you also got replies from him also. My hardly any letter of which I have not got reply from CMO. People lost courage to write correct letters to Modiji. For Example I wrote Modi's Mistakes which he asked in feb. 2007 in Delhi that "PEOPLE SHOULD WRITE MY MISTAKES" 15 Feb 2007, 2019 hrs IST , INDIATIMES NEWS NETWORK People must point out my mistakes: Modi. I wrote his mistakes and got letter from GAD that the GAD changed their circular dated 14.11.2005 Vide letter GAD dated 27.07.2008 to give File noting to an RTI Act 05 applicant. I have no problems to point out mistakes of Modiji. I am also belong to RSS childhood cadre with out membership of BJP till date. Now I am 76 years belonge to UP and settled in Vadodara Gujarat from 1973.

    on Oct 19, 2012
    • anirudha dutta

      Thank you, drrkdgoed. Your experience is indeed good to hear and these are stories we do not hear too often. Someone I know had travelled to a foreign country as part of Modi's team. on the way back, Modi spent taking down feedback from every delegate on what went right, what could have been done better and what they had learnt. Something he had not seen any other leader do.

      on Oct 21, 2012
  • Umang Singhal

    lets MODI-FY India

    on Oct 19, 2012
  • Jess

    Great article ! "Paid News"Media. Dare are any journalist to write about his achievements not just Gujarat riots over and over. Seems most journalist in India do not know what unbaised reporting is. Many Riots under New Delhi watch. Shameful Media only like to fill own pockets. What about ethics and professionalism.

    on Oct 19, 2012
  • Dinesh Narayanan

    For many people, including my good friend Anirudha, Gujarat is the model that India should follow. He points out that liberal minded people refuse to forget 2002. The subtle suggestion is: Why do you want to brood over the past and the unpleasant? Look at the bright side. Come to the future.

    I, like many liberal minded people, do not agree with that view. One should never forget history. In fact, in my view, history should be mandatory reading throughout school and college. That is why when Anirudha compares Narendra Modi’s qualities to Indira Gandhi’s – decisive and clean – it is necessary to also understand the flip side. In Indira Gandhi’s case, it was the Emergency. I have heard people say that the Emergency was good because trains ran on time and government offices worked. I think not many will disagree that those were the darkest months in independent India’s history.

    Why I mention this is like many people who have commented on the cover story on Narendra Modi, Anirudha has also missed the point of various anecdotes in it. The issues he has flagged should not be analysed in isolation. They together make up the larger Gujarat narrative. The true picture is visible when the mosaic is seen as a whole. For instance, Anirudha asks why I object to the extravagant display of Modi. I don’t. The example was merely to point out what his PR machinery is capable of.

    However, I do have a problem when government resources and infrastructure is extensively used to fulfil the political ambitions of one person. You could say that other governments are equally culpable. Of course they are. That does not make it right in Gujarat. Similarly, I have mentioned about people being threatened by those in power. Doubtless, it happens in other places as well. A recent example is Salman Khurshid’s rather crude ``ink and blood’’ remark. But does that make it right? Can investments smother these `minor' incursions on freedoms promised in democratic nations?

    Anirudha says that Gujarat is one of the few states where employment exchanges function. Again it is missing the point. The reason I pointed out the low job creation in Gujarat is that it is one state that boasts of a large number of organised industries. Industrial projects worth nearly Rs 9 lakh crore have either been completed or are under implementation in Gujarat. I can understand Uttar Pradesh not creating jobs. Hardly any capital goes there. If all this money is unable to create enough jobs who is the capital serving? Over 90 per cent of India’s labour force works in the unorganised sector. I would expect Gujarat, having attracted a number of industries in the organised sector, to be way ahead of other states in creating organised sector jobs proportionate to the capital deployed.

    One advisor to Modi told me that Modi is enamoured of the `panch pyare’, meaning the five favourites. He was referring to five big industrial groups who seem to get preferential treatment from the government. Rules apparently are not the same for everyone. I cannot argue more about the issue of corruption. Even a person who is part of Modi’s publicity machinery admitted to me that corruption is widespread in the state. He, however, qualified that he was not talking about top officials in the bureaucracy. He even admitted that a Cabinet minister was making money in land deals hand over fist. But since, the people Anirudha spoke to say that they did not face corruption, I can only presume that there are some who have to pay and some who don’t. Please note that I am not quoting rivals but people who are close to the chief minister.

    The ease with which Anirudha and his team were pampered with efficiency is not surprising at all. In fact, any big business or their representatives (read who are willing to bring capital) have a red carpet ready for them. Just witness the speed at which the Tata Nano project was cleared. And let's face it. Nothing burnished Modi's image than the association with the Tata brand. My point is Gujarat has always welcomed industry. It was no accident that India’s first free trade zone was established in Kandla in 1965! Gujarat chief ministers and the bureaucracy has always been business friendly.

    Anirudha makes the point that it is not necessarily a bad thing that Modi has managed to sideline RSS and other Sangh Parivar outfits. I am all for delinking political interference from administration. In fact, the travesty of governance in India is that it is unable to delink politics and administration. Modi should be commended for that. Anirudha does not see anything wrong in Modi creating a parallel infrastructure. He says it is good. But as Anirudha says, is delinking them from electoral politics and replacing party set-ups with government funded infrastructure a good idea? Is it desirable in a democracy? Today, officials in Gujarat are responsible for getting crowds for Modi’s gatherings, a job done by party cadres in other states. Imagine Mayawati and Mulayam Singh deploying government officials for party work in Uttar Pradesh.

    Anyways, the larger point I had intended to make in the story was whether good governance is possible only by autocratic means. Examples of other countries such as Korea, Singapore and China – all super-achievers – show that autocratic rulers can bring efficiencies. In India, other leaders such as former Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajashekhar Reddy and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar have displayed intolerance to criticism and a tendency to suppress debate. Both of them were considered good administrators of states where bureaucrats `worked'. But the cost to pay often is freedom. It is not for nothing that India’s founding fathers decided that the country would have universal suffrage right from the beginning. It is because they believed in democratic principles. It is the strength of that Constitutional foundation that India has remained together despite doomsayers from time to time predicting its disintegration.

    on Oct 19, 2012
    • Hemant Dubey

      If one should never forget history than why people like you dont raise your voice against all the wrongs of Nehru when he was prime minister? He is solely responsible for problem in Kashmir, our defeat against China, India not having permanent seat in security council of UN, Illiteracy and non existance good quality education for Indian kids, No sanitation and drinking water for 70% population & many more. Likewise Indira's role in raising LTTE & Punjab Militancy, as well as increasing nepotism by promoting Sanjay Gandhi and neglecting North East. Rajiv Gandhi for Punjab riots & bofors. Sonia gandhi for so much corruption and thrusting her dumb son on India. All communal & caste riots since independence.. There are so many history related things which you should be targeting but if you be selective than people will question you dear friend. I hope you understand

      on Oct 21, 2012
    • anirudha dutta

      Thanks, Dinesh, for your detailed comments. As I said in my blog, yours was a balanced piece and it is balanced when I look at the mosaic of anecdotes and not anecdotes in isolation. I chose only a few observations or anecdotes to discuss because otherwise an already long blog will become only longer. As I have mentioned in my first few sentences, for few there is nothing to Modi other than 2002 and for others 2002 doesn’t matter. And not for once through the blog have I said 2002 should be forgotten.

      In fact I strongly believe that 2002 riots were the equivalent of the first Gulf War for India. The first riots that were beamed directly into our homes an affected PLUs. It is thanks to the media that the 2002 riots will always be there on our conscience in a way 1984, Nellie massacre, Bhagalpur blindings, 1992/ 93 riots etc will never be. And as some of the perpetrators, if not all, get punished including many active politicians, it will probably be a deterrent to future generation of politicians, irrespective of which party they belong to. Therefore, I completely agree with you that history should be taught and rigorously so.

      While every story on Modi starts with a reference to 2002, somehow every story of Rajiv Gandhi doesn’t start with 1984. This hypocrisy amazes me. 1984 was worse than 2002 by any yardstick, except we did not see it “live” in our drawing rooms. In 1992/ 93 in Mumbai I have seen how the internecine war between the then Home Minister, Defence Minister and Chief Minister of Maharashtra resulted in the riots being prolonged. But is every discussion on the Congress party prefaced with 1992/ 93 or the amendment as a result of the Shah Bano judgement or the shilyanas that was allowed in Babri Masjid?

      I mentioned Indira Gandhi towards the end because in spite of all her shortcomings, narrow mindedness and her attempts to destroy many of the major democratic institutions set up by her father and his generation of politicians, there is a kind of nostalgia about her days. Emergency was the darkest period of our democratic history, but people now are so disgusted with the indecisive and venal rule that even Indira Gandhi seems to be acceptable! Some of her qualities – decisiveness in particular – are something that one sees in Modi.

      This is not to say I advocate emergency at all (in fact, I don’t) and Modi after all is thriving within the democratic traditions of our country. Dinesh, both you and I have heard people talk about trains running on time during emergency, an in Juhupura, one of the largest Muslim settlements in Ahmedabad, I heard a really only man in a store run by his son saying how the British rule was great. In the same locality, while people were reluctant to discuss politics with me, they also said that when the state does well, their incomes and their businesses also do well. This is something that even Modi repeatedly says – when a road is built or when water reaches a village, everyone benefits irrespective of religion or caste. In the case of water, it is not true in many states, but that is a different matter.

      Dinesh, the statistic that you have quoted shows that 5.6 lakhs jobs were created in Gujarat since 1995. How does it compare to other states? That would show whether Gujarat has done well or poorly. And we all know that large industry has become less labour intensive and more technology intensive in this period. There is no choice to this. In the same way that PSU banks and government offices are also computerise today. On job creation my favourite example is Tata Steel. In the early 1990s, it used to produce 2-3mt of steel with nearly 80,000 employees and almost 50% of that production was semi-finished products. Not it produces 3x that amount (100% finished steel) and has half the number of employees.

      Face it, labour exchanges and such other institutions function better in Gujarat than in most other parts of the country. It is for this reason that Gujarat stands out in implementation of most central government schemes, as judged by the central ministries. The MNREGA social audit is a shining example of that and just Google and see what Jairam Ramesh had to say about it. Check with the Dedicated Freight Corridor people and the progress in Gujarat is the best, check with DMIC, and Dholera is at the most advanced stage.

      Two wrongs indeed never make a right. But how do you term that the publicity in Gujarat is for the benefit of one man (not the party) whereas in other cases it is for the party? And as far as melas are concerned, they are to implement government schemes and everywhere in the county government employees are involved in it. Why should party workers be involved in government work? And trying to take credit for it is something that politicians everywhere do and there is nothing unique about Gujarat in that.

      During my visit we were not pampered by the government. In fact we had an independent itinerary and met many people including journalists, social organizations, banks, auto dealers, NDDB, taxi drivers, factories in Vadodara etc. On corruption one does not hear about any large scale corruption. As more things go online, as better connectivity is established, corruption is coming down. Let’s forget about big business or paanch pyaare’s, as Dinesh says. A taxi driver, hailing from Rajasthan, told us that this government is very good. I asked him how does it matter to him. And he said, “Sahab, sarkari office mein jaane se log abhi izzat se baat karte hain. Chowk mein hawaldar haath badake paise nahin mangta hai.” (Translated: I now get treated with respect when I visit a government office; and the policeman at the traffic signal doesn’t ask for bribes).

      If the larger discussion is about autocratic rule vs democracy, then Gujarat and Narendra Modi work within India’s democratic and constitutional framework. What democracy do people see in Congress or NCP or AIADMK or TMC or SP or BSP or DMK? What freedom has an average or aam Gujarati (mango people, as Robert Vadraji says) lost? And yes, Gujarat has not only been business friendly, it has also been blessed with a long coastline. Twin advantages. Also people are entrepreneurial in nature. But Modi has been able to attract diverse industries and industrialists. Also an eye-opener for me in 2005 was to see the development work that has happened in Kutch after the devastating earth quake. That speaks volumes of what Modi can achieve, but something that is not as much discussed. After all 2002 rouses passions, not the development of Kutch.

      on Oct 20, 2012
      • Dinesh Narayanan

        Thanks Anirudha for taking the debate forward. I shall reply to the post in reverse because you mentioned the rebuilding of Kutch and it reiterates the point I was making that Narendra Modi is not as special as his PR machinery would like us to believe.

        One rarely comes across Bhuj earthquake victims on the railway platforms of Mumbai but you can easily find many who fled the 1993 quake of Latur or the many cyclones of Orissa. You mentioned the development of Kutch in 2005. I went to Kutch in January 2002, exactly one year after the earthquake devastated it. I was amazed at the speed at which roads and bridges were reconstructed and thousands of houses were built for the victims. How did it happen?

        The amount of resources and expertise that poured into Gujarat after the earthquake were unprecedented. The number of agencies that went to work in Kutch post the earthquake was unseen anywhere in the country, or, for that matter, even neighbouring countries. The entire region was swarming with independent agencies and volunteers. And the state government acted decisively and with tremendous alacrity. Who was the chief minister then? Keshubhai Patel. Here is an independent 2009 study on humanitarian responses in which the Gujarat earthquake is also covered.

        Patel’s regime was notorious for corruption but it certainly was not an idle government. The check dam policy for which Modi does not tire to take credit was started during Patel’s time. No doubt, Modi built on it as a good administrator should. That is why my story acknowledges all the good work he has done. And many thanks for your acknowledgement that it is a balanced story. As you can see, not many other commentators think so.

        You ask me to face it that many institutions work better in Gujarat. Well that is what my story also says. All that you say about Dholera and the industrial corridor is correct and I have said so in that story. I presume that is why you thought it a balanced story. And, how can a story be balanced if I talk only about the achievements?

        Now, let us look at a couple of other issues since you would like to `forget big business and panch pyaares’ and focus on the ordinary folk. Why do you think malnutrition is still an issue in Gujarat? Why is it that the eastern, tribal belt continues to languish in human development? Now the state government says that it is going to address these issues after the media made a hue and cry about it. Was it not priority for the past ten years? Of course, hardly anyone in the administration noticed it because it was not flashy enough.

        The chief minister sends personalised letters to new car owners urging them to use public transport as much as possible. However, he forgets that Gujarat hardly has any public transport and he has paid scant attention to it. Why? Because running buses on highways can hardly be the same as operating a BRTS or a Metro rail. Of course, Ahmedabad gets the BRTS and a future Metro. But what about the rest of the state? Can you travel long distance in Gujarat without personal transport? To compare, have you seen how Tamil Nadu’s (the other major industrialised state) public transport system operates?

        E Sreedharan once told me that every time he ran into Modi, he would say, ``Sreedharanji, mera Metro kahan hain?’’ And every time he would reply, ``Modiji, it is in your hands. You have to move on it’’. Why has it taken so long for the project?

        You quote examples of people who say things have improved. Of course they have improved and doesn’t the story acknowledge that? This is what I say.

        "Under him, industry in the state has grown in double digits. More children are now in school than ever before and agricultural growth is several times the national average. Modi told a farmers’ gathering recently that arable land in the state had increased by 37 lakh hectares. Land covered by micro-irrigation projects alone had increased from less than 1,000 acres to over seven lakh hectares in the decade of his rule. The administration works with clock-work efficiency."

        You also quote people saying how corruption has come down. I can only repeat what I said in my earlier post. Perhaps there are those who have to pay and those who don’t. As I had quoted in that post, people close to the chief minister themselves (one of them executes a flagship project of his; another is a publicist) had admitted to me that it was an issue. And I have no reason to disbelieve them. I met people in Patan (revenue minister Anandiben Patel’s constituency) who told me of land grab by politicians (benami, of course) in the district. My journalist training would make me suspect that they probably knew that an SIR was about to be announced there. Now you may say that this is what happens in other states with other parties as well just as you maintain that politicians are the same everywhere in taking credit. True. Does that make it right?

        Credit should be give where it is due. But not otherwise. If you noticed, I had mentioned the story of Surendra Patel, currently BJP treasurer and the architect of modern Ahmedabad. I have never met a more gentleman politician in my life. He dresses modestly and works from a tiny office and is humble to a fault. He is no Pravin Togadia or Gordhan Zadaphia. He is well loved by the people of Ahmedabad. Why was he sidelined? Patel himself is too much of a gentleman to acknowledge that Modi sidelined him and he remains loyal to the party. Others in Ahmedabad told me that Modi was worried about Patel’s popularity and style, which was to take everyone along. His ability to persuade people was on clear display when he acquired land for Ahmedabad’s development. Today, Modi takes credit for how the city has transformed but does not give credit to the deserving. My liberal mind can only analyse that Modi felt threatened by the increasing popularity of the likeable, moderate Patel who also is an imaginative administrator. That is why I say that publicity in Gujarat is for the benefit of one man not the party.

        You yourself have answered the question why Rajiv Gandhi’s name is not often associated with the 1984 Delhi riots while Modi’s is with the 2002 Gujarat riots. It is simply because people have not seen it `live’. Most people would have only `read’ about the Delhi riots. The impact simply is not the same, and everyone has not `felt’ it. At the same time, in my mind at least, Indira Gandhi’s name is unalterably hyphenated with the Emergency because people across the country suffered and those days are indelibly etched in the collective consciousness of an entire generation that is still around to remember. It is only a fascist mind that can order an Emergency. And I would rather not have such a `decisive’ mind in power.

        Though I agree that many stories on Gujarat and Narendra Modi do mention the 2002 riots, I disagree that is always the case. Here is an earlier story of Forbes India that gives credit where it is deserved and I did not find mention of the riots in it. The forthcoming issue of Forbes India profiles a businessman in Juhapura. Again credit where it is due. As I mention in the story, I had to see for myself what was happening on the ground in Gujarat and my analysis is based on what I saw there. You say in your blog post that you did not see many hoardings of Modi. I saw them; at every eye-catching corner in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. Every ten minutes FM radio stations air ads extolling the virtues of the chief minister – not the party and not any other leader. If you believe it is part of government officials job and it is alright to use government resources for getting crowds for a chief minister, I do not have anything to say. As I saw it, and as Gujarat officials told me, what better cover than government schemes to use state resources and infrastructure for personal promotion.

        As for Modi thriving in democratic traditions of this country, I would only point to your home state Bengal where the Left thrived for 34 years. And how.

        on Oct 22, 2012
    • RT

      Dear Dinesh All I have to say for you "Liberal Minded" people is that if your were to look at the past and derive insights from it, this is just fine. However, if we really want to look at the past, please define to what extent do we want to look at ??? I.e. till Anti-Sikh riots and prove that all congressies in Delhi were responsible ? or till even further back to prove that Mughals and Turks were barbarian invaders and we should respond accordingly. Its your choice... I will use only your and Aniruddha's words, please please please look at the fuller picture... else you people by simply critisizing us are only playing into Modi's hands !! and good for that !! This has already been established beyond doubt in 2007 when Mr Siddharth Patel on the morning of counting day was shown getting a tilak on the head (by most of the media) thereby creating an impression that Congress is going to landslide... but look who had the last laugh. You and your types are paid to represent whatever is the majority opinion (not read as opinion of the majority) ... if you feel otherwise, please write so and I welcome you to my state during counting and you will see the difference. just one promise... after this you have to correct yourselves.. this cannot go on and on..

      on Oct 20, 2012
    • Sanjeev A

      @ Dinesh, Liberal minded people are the root cause of all that is wrong with our country. With the hardliners, be it the hindus or muslims or christians, one can be sure of who they are, what they do and what their thought process is likely to be. The liberals are a cunning lot.. they have no morality, no scruples and certainly no ethics. Take your words for instance: I, like many liberal minded people, do not agree with that view. One should never forget history. In fact, in my view, history should be mandatory reading throughout school and college. The same set of liberal and leftists have thoroughly cleansed our history books of any mention of mulsim atrocities perpetrated during the long islamic rule this country has seen. In his book, Eminent Historians - Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud, Arun Shourie has very clearly brought out how the so called Liberals went out of their way in erasing this part from the history we study in our schools and colleges! Let us take another point you have mentioned... PR Machinery of Modi. The first thing the UPA 1 did after coming to power was to block the faces of Sri Vajapayee on all the pictures of his on the NHAI projects and instead project Sonia and MMS there. I never saw any liberal coming out in the open shouting against this. Every single advertisement of the government carries a mug shot of Sonia, no liberal has ever questioned this or criticised this. The moment Modi starts doing it, it becomes an eye sore for you.. Brilliant. This off the record comments about corruption you have mentioned only shows one thing. You are trying to create an issue where there are none and you do not have enough facts, figures and guts to highlight this. Here is a suggestion for you. Give the names of these people whom you have referred to in your response to Mr. Kejriwal. Let him gather evidence against the wrong doing of these so called ministers making money in land deals and then expose it. Fair enough? See, in the last ten years of Modi's rule, congress and liberals have tried to dig all and any possible dirt on Modi and have tried to stick it onto him. When Vadra is stuck in the DLF mess, do you think Congress is not trying its level best to find even an iota of evidence against Narendra Modi, who is their biggest threat, and justify what Vadra did? Therefore you coming out with these off the record statements to buttress your assumptions is no surprise. You say : The ease with which Anirudha and his team were pampered with efficiency is not surprising at all. In fact, any big business or their representatives (read who are willing to bring capital) have a red carpet ready for them. I am sorry, this is not the situation in other states. Moreover what did Aniruddha say? It was just a trip of the investors. There was no guarantee that the capital would flow in. There was no guarantee that the investments would materialise. And the mail was not sent to Modi directly for the state apparatus to act so efficiently. In my home state even if the orders were to come from the CM directly, babus dont work. The problem with you and people like you is this. You have a blinkered vision. You first think of 2002 and then start seeing other things with that perspective. For Modi, 2002 is past. Its gone. Its history. He now sees 2020. And is working towards this goal. While the liberals are squeaking like stuck pigs.

      on Oct 20, 2012
    • Piyush

      Reply Mr. Dinesh Narayanan, you are totally biased in your views about the development in Gujarat and you have expressed your personal grudges against Mr. Modi in the article (or you have been influenced by the opposition). The cover story written by you which was published in Forbes India had completely baseless arguments which you had written to malign the image of the chief minister of Gujarat Mr. Narendra Modi. Firstly, the points which you had mentioned in your article and now in your reply make no sense as you are just considering just some 'X' person (i.e. you are not mentioning their name) and critisizing the Gujarat Government. Secondy, the point about the increase of the length of Narmada Dam which you had mentioned in your article shows how unaware you are about the facts before writing an article. The Gujarat Government has already proposed to increase the length of Narmada Dam but are waiting for an approval from the Congress Govt. at the centre. It has been the case for the past three years and it the govt. at the centre to blame and not the state govt. 3)Regarding the employment opportunities in the state, you will be shocked to know(or maybe you knew that before you wrote this s**t) that Gujarat has a share of more than 60% of the total jobs created in the country. The Central Govt. led by Sonia Gandhi(oops it's the mum guy Manmohan Singh) had felicitated the State Govt. 4)The state fovt. has also laid gas pipelines in the state for more that 300 thousand villages but the central govt. put a break to this development and not given the necessary permissions.And Sonia Gandhi is asking for subsidy on the cylinders in the Rajkot rally. 5)Another point that you should know is that the NGO in the name of late Rajiv had also given awards to the state govt. for good governance and development in the state.And the President of the congress party Sonia Gandhi had told in a Rajkot rally that there is not much development in Gujarat. 6)Gujarat is the only state in the country with 24 hr power supply and it still has surplus power. It also had the largest solar park in Asia which generates 600MW of power. Now, coming to the point that Mr. Modi has a good PR team that publicise him a lot. Let me tell you Mr. Narayanan that because of the nature of politics in our country, it is necessary for the good leaders to do this. Recently, you would have heard of a scheme by the Gujarat Congress named "guar-nu-ghar"(i.e. distributing free homes), and also that they would distribute free laptops if they would come into power. And let me tell you that they would be utilising the public money to fulfill these promises and not the money from the Swiss Accounts of the Gandhi family. The so called secular Congress party is known to make these promise before the elections and never fulfil them if they come to power(like in delhi where Sheila Dixit had promised free homes to poor and in the state of Maharashtra where they had promised free electricity to farmers). And not to forget the corrupt media(exceptions are always there) of our nation which is even getting worse with people like you taking journalism. It is therefore important for even leaders like Mr.Modi to adv. the achievements of their govt. And the point of publicising should be first raised against the Gandhi family. Whether the development in Gujarat is sustainable or not is a debatable issue. Germany n UK are the examples we can take. The German economy which is largely based on manufacturing is striving in the present day(even after the Euro crisis). And the British economy is as we all know struggling as it is more into services. The Gujarat model is based on the German model(it is a personal opinion). Coming to the autocratic nature of his rule as per your opinion. Again I would say that you need to get your facts clear do some more research into Indian politics. Gujarat congress leader Vithal Radadiya is an example of autocracy.The family led congress party is an example of autocracy where even the PM of our country has to keep mum and the son in law enjoys no frisking at airports. The congress govt. led by Mr.Hooda of Harayana is autocratic which is troubling a genuine IPS officer Mr.Khemka. The SP govt.(which now supports the Congress at the centre) led by the so called educated CM Akhilesh Yadav is autocratic as we all know the cases of voilence in UP. Lastly, I would like you to be a responsible journalist and citizen of the country and not just write articles for personal benefits. I was never expecting a person of your intellectual stature to write such an article, you being the Economic and policy editor at Forbes. Expecting a valid reply from you soon.(And the facts this time)

      on Oct 20, 2012
    • Sahil

      Mr. Narayanan, you mentioned that you refuse to forget history, I truly appreciate that. However I fail to under why should one have selective memory. In past 10 years, liberals have barely written anything about 1984 anti Sikh riots in national media. So how do we readers know you and the liberals you are referring to, have not forgotten it? I also feel very puzzled with your reference to Modi's PR machinery. In past 10 years, I have read anti Modi articles/opinions in editorials and blogs of most of the national media. So if anything, it sounds like there is anti Modi PR machinery. One interesting point that Mr. Dutta brought up was why is that headlines get misprinted particularly in case of Modi. I remember Salil Tripathi had to correct his error in Livment (affiliate of WSJ) and I think it was BBC (?) where headline was corrected to say that Gujarat has hot economy. Could you please expand little bit more on how Modi's PR machinery exactly works? For average people like me, it is totally invisible. I greatly admire freedom we get through democracy but fail to understand how Modi's autocratic style is threat to India's democracy. Within his party, he said this is how I want it to function, the people who didn't like left the party and formed new party. Thats democracy at work, Modi didn't stop them from forming their own parties, did he? You claimed that Modi is using state machinery to gather crowd for his rallies. I am at loss here completely. Why would crowd care to gather upon request of government official like you claim? Only way crowds could be gathered is by politicians however you seem to indicate that no where else in India, but only in Gujarat government servants are able to gather crowds for Modi? How do you even support this allegation? Unlike several other states of India, Gujarat doesn't have booming IT industry and is heavily dependent on capital incentive manufacturing industry. Hence job creation is not proportional to what you see in service section. I am not sure why would one not factor in this component while commenting on job creation. Lastly, Gujarat has always been business friendly, I totally agree. However the speed with which projects get clearance like Tata Nano was unheard of in Gujarat or anywhere else in India. Modi changed that, why would you not acknowledge that? Also, whether Gujarat has relatively less corruption is not for Mr. Dutta or Mr. Narayanan to decide. Well structured scientific survey across Indian states will reveal the truth how industries rate level of corruption in different states. Unfortunately, we Indians are served with lot of opinions and very little facts.

      on Oct 20, 2012
    • Niranjan

      I want to ask on simple question to Dinesh Narayan.. Do want to live in Modi's India or 'democratic leader 'Mulaym's India? People like still say Mulaym because he is 'secular' but think about millions of Indians who don't care about secular, non secular as they struggule to get one meal a day. Whom do you think better? Modi or Mulayam/MMS/Sonia. You never question Sonia and her dynesty.. But you want Modi to be 'perfect' rule..

      on Oct 19, 2012
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