B S Raghavan

Meaning of Modi’s third-time win

B.S. RAGHAVAN | Updated on March 12, 2018

Governance skills rewarded.

There was never any doubt at any time in the minds of unbiased analysts of public affairs and political realities about the outcome of the Gujarat election.

Only the bookies, for some inexplicable reason, (although they are supposed to have their ears to the ground), chose to swim against the current of most pollsters’ prediction of a substantial majority, if not a landslide victory, and take the downbeat view that the BJP was unlikely to cross the 100-seat mark. In the event, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has handed his party, for the third time in a row, an impressive win.

Going purely by the touchstone of effective and largely corruption-free governance, both the BJP and Modi deserve the win. The Gujarat election, in a manner of speaking, was not between the BJP and the Congress, or any other party.

It was essentially between the aam aadmi and the perpetuators of a political culture who merely indulge in feathering their own nests, with no thought for his concerns and hassles. It has also been, in that sense, an affirmation of his continued faith in Modi government’s policies which he found had contributed to accelerated development and to whose beneficial effects he has been a proximate witness.

This is the message — the aam aadmi’s increasingly strident demand to deliver — that the political and governing classes have been missing out, and Narendra Modi had been heeding. The aam aadmi is keen to move on, looking for leaders who will meet his rising expectations.

The aam aadmi of Gujarat, in particular, traditionally brought up on cost-benefit calculus, was not interested in the shibboleths and shenanigans of self-seeking, run-of-the-mill, politicians whose true measure he had taken. With his shrewd, native wisdom, he was, by now, able to see through the contemptible hypocrisy behind the constant harping on 2002 riots by those who had the blood of the massacre of more than 4,000 Sikhs in 1984 riots on their hands.

UNBECOMING ACTIONS

Modi may be acerbic, authoritarian, ambitious and whatever other label his critics want to pin on him. But what his political opponents, bent on demonising him, forgot was that even bodies under the Central Government, such as the Planning Commission and the Central Statistical Organisation, have borne testimony to the inclusive nature and rapid pace of development of Gujarat under Modi’s leadership.

Foreign governments, which had self-righteously blackballed Modi on a personal plane by unbecoming actions such as refusal of visa, barring of official visits and contacts and the like, have had to eat crow on seeing the conspicuous impact he has made on the fronts of governance and development.

Nobody could have missed the political significance of the British High Commissioner’s high profile visit to Gujarat to make amends and his widely disseminated photo-op with Modi just on the eve of election.

It may well be that there is some puffing up of Gujarat’s growth story, but by and large, all observers are agreed that the difference Modi’s leadership has made is spectacular. In an article, Narendra Modi: Role Model of Governance?, in the September 24 issue of Forbes India, the correspondent, after undertaking a personal visit to Gujarat for an appraisal of Modi’s performance, has contrasted memories of Ahmedabad from 10 years ago, as “a messy city, like many others — chaotic, polluted and emblematic of all things wrong with urbanisation in India” with what he saw in August this year.

LAVISH PRAISE

“Without doubt”, he says, “it looked like one of the better managed cities in the country. The roads were wider and public spaces greener ...(with) an efficient Bus Rapid Transit System….The Sabarmati river, which runs through the city, used to be dry and surrounded by slums. Instead, fed by Narmada waters, it was in full flow between the newly-built 10-km-long promenades on either side.”

The Economist is equally, if not more, lavish in its praise. “So many things work properly in Gujarat that it hardly feels like India.” It quotes an executive of CEAT saying, “There is constant electricity, gas and abundant water. The state government (keeps) red tape to a minimum, did not ask for bribes, and does not interfere ...”

Noting that Gujarat accounts for five per cent of India's population but 16 per cent of its industrial output and 22 per cent of its exports, The Economist says: “Its growth has outpaced India’s and it wins accolades from business people…. A recent comparison of Indian states by McKinsey, a consultancy, waxed lyrical about Gujarat….It might yet play the role of industrial locomotive for the country, as Guangdong province did for China in the 1990s. Gujarat could be a vision of India’s future, in which manufacturing flourishes, soaking up rural labour. Its economy is expected to grow by double digits, even as India's rate slows to 7-8 per cent….”

UNSTOPPABLE

The fact that Modi has got Gujarat in the electoral bag by placing it in the forefront of development and governance has become, on all accounts, less compelling than the question: Where does Modi go from here?

Certainly, by his accomplishments as well as by the high quality of his leadership and his ability to overcome obstacles in his drive towards the goals he sets for himself, he has proved himself to be made of Prime Ministerial timbre.

He has also acquired a national stature which, without exaggeration, can be said to tower above any of the other BJP leaders, except perhaps L.K. Advani.

When the wheel of fortune turns in favour of the BJP and/or the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), his march to the top slot would be virtually unstoppable.

Not for nothing have erstwhile detractors fallen mute and he has begun to be courted by foreign governments whose political and business leaders know on which side their bread is buttered.

Published on December 20, 2012

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