Modi’s Gujarat: Blue or green

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Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” said Aristotle. This is true of economic analysis of Gujarat over the Modi period.

Two books on Gujarat’s economy, by two highly competent economists, arrived on my table recently. When I told the Editor that one of them was all praise for the State and the other very critical, he told me a story from his schooldays.

As part of the Hindi curriculum, he said, one of the stories he had to read was called “Dhaal ka Rang” meaning the colour of the shield hanging from a tree. Two friends could not agree whether it was blue or green and got into a heated argument until a third chap came along and said it was blue on one side and green on the other.

This being exactly true of Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, I thought I’d write about the two books together. This is not a review as I have no opinion to offer on the volumes, not least because the authors are very good friends of mine. Suffice it to say that a lot of people should read these books and form their own opinions.

Debroy’s data

First off, then, the one by Bibek Debroy (Gujarat: Governance for Growth and Development, Academic Foundation) is the strangest coffee table book I have ever seen: it is a data buff’s delight but full of some very ordinary photos. However, everything — well, almost — you want to know about Gujarat’s economy is there in this book.

Debroy marshals his facts carefully. He is also a persuasive arguer of the case based on those facts. Gujarat emerges smelling of roses in this volume.

His main point is conventional wisdom, though: if you govern well, the results will be positive. One simple way of defining good governance, suggests Debroy, is to look at the overall numbers: if they stack up well, this is clear evidence of good governance.

But to get there, he says, you have to increase public awareness of their rights — which Gujarat has done — and reduce/eliminate monopolies and discretion along with hugely increased private investment, which also Gujarat has done. Of course, you have to fix agriculture, too.

Strikingly, Debroy doesn’t mention Modi at all. That’s perhaps not very clever because whatever has happened to Gujarat’s economy is because of its leadership. That Modi provided it is incidental.

Debroy should therefore have included a chapter on leadership in Gujarat — at all but the Chief Minister’s level of which we hear enough and more.

In all successful States, it is this non-CM level leadership that delivers. Ask Sheila Dixit, Nitish Kumar, Oommen Chandy, Shivraj Chauhan, etc. It’s their officials who get the job done.

Sood’s sentiment

This rosy view of Gujarat is not shared by Atul Sood who teaches economics at JNU. He has edited another volume (Poverty Amidst Prosperity, Aakar) and is very critical. He finds fault with the process that has led to this “success” — large-scale private investment, especially in infrastructure, and the corporatisation of agriculture.

These things, he says in his opening essay, have not contributed ‘much’ to the people of Gujarat. The marginalised groups have become worse off, along with many others.

A key indicator of this, he justifiably points out, is the growth in consumption expenditure. On this, the State’s performance is just average. Moreover, under Modi, this indicator has done less well than it had done during the 1990s.

To cut a long story short, Sood is of the view that this growth strategy “has led to increased suffering for the deprived sections, namely, lower castes, minorities and women.”

The rest of the nine essays are along these broad lines, devoted to making the generally valid point that the growth process has not been even. A lot of people have been left out, the tribals in particular — a point with which Debroy doesn’t agree.

He has devoted a full chapter to the tribals. He says compared to Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, which are Gujarat’s neighbours, things could have been far worse. For instance, there is no extremism amongst tribals in Gujarat, as compared to Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Voters’ view

I would like to ask Debroy and Sood two questions now.

How come Modi gets only half of the popular vote?

How come Modi gets as much as half of the popular vote?

Aristotle apparently said that generally in societies “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. We should perhaps apply that to Gujarat’s economic success or failure over the Modi period because numbers alone never tell the whole story in human affairs.

It is not a brilliant idea to rely on them alone to prove or disprove an argument because of the presence of what statisticians call ‘error terms’, which are the amount by which the numbers presented differ from reality.

Someone needs to tell us if Narendra Modi’s leadership is that error term.

(This article was published on November 22, 2012)
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Sponsored writers never wants to make a full stop on Modi's development. Please accept the proved reality of development i.e. double digit growth in industry and agriculture both. Be patriotic and Help India by getting NaMo in centre. Everybody saw how our PM who is ph.d. economist by education got us in last 10 years. Compare NaMo with MMS and select the one which whole India needs. Modi employed maximum policemen from muslim compare to all other states. So don't question for minorities upliftment. Make a full stop. Stop politics. Please don't write more articles on these and just vote for right people. God will bless your children and their children...

from:  MS
Posted on: Nov 23, 2012 at 01:06 IST

Good questions asked by the writer of the article? 50% of vote is a
large share compared to any standards. Also, to remind Mr Sood, the
seats have come from all corners of Gujarat including rural and tribal
areas in same proportion.

Coming to the specific faults which Mr. Sood finds - large scale
private investment, how else do jobs get created? The history of large
scale failure of public sector using people's money, often backed by
many left leaning economists of JNU, is too well known and is even at
this moment getting played out in full public view - e.g. EPFO putting
PF money in Air India.

He finds fault with corporatisation in Agriculture. Using corporate
contracts, the farmers of North Gujarat have multiplied their income
manifold. Does he prefer these farmers to remain at permanent
subsistence level?

from:  paresh v
Posted on: Nov 23, 2012 at 09:54 IST

Thank you TCA Shrinivasa Raghvan, You give a precise unbent information. And whether you ask for Voters choice and explain by the view of Aristotle. is quite applicable and fair "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts"

from:  Yateendra Lawaniya
Posted on: Nov 23, 2012 at 13:56 IST

why don't you go and verify .....ground zero.....some people are blind because of their preconceived prejudices and some are blind by desire...fact is progress all around to see. His innovative style of governance is in fact successful. as for the 50% of are overestimating the wisdom of Indian voters...most often than not they vote on the basis of cast and other things..and for the matter which party is getting even around 50% UP SP got only 30% votes and even UPA has not got more than 35% votes...there is always opposition to best of the work done.... for vibrant democracy it is good that opposition remains alive other wise there will not be check and balances....but voting percentage is not the barometer of performance. Modi has performed exceedingly well during his tenure and icing on cake is no corruption involving higher ups and nobody can take that away from his. He is sincere and his team is working like well oiled machine. History will decide what he i

from:  shashi
Posted on: Nov 23, 2012 at 18:22 IST

Whether Gujarat is green or blue is not the question. Bibek Debroy's
celebration of private investment driven high growth rates may also be
premature. After all, the Asian Tiger economies in the 1990s were in
fast lane and we saw how they tumbled. Atul Sood may, therefore, be
right in regretting the the fruits of rapid growth have by-passed the
vulnerable sections of Gujarat. As for votes, well, Modi may fool
Gujaratis one more time because you can fool some people all the time
or all the people for some time. But, they say, you can't fool all the
people all the time.

from:  Bhupendra Yadav
Posted on: Nov 23, 2012 at 20:27 IST
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