Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Modi’s development story panned again….and Modi now a pariah even in the BJP

I had written a series of three stories on Modi when he went on his 3-day sadbhavna fast in mid-September. These stories raised the hackles of the Modi supporters, but the truth in those stories could never be disputed. The first of those stories – titled Modi’s growth story is a sham…..dated 17th September showed conclusively that Gujarat’s growth story had little to do with Modi. Gujarat was already prosperous – even before Modi – and there were many other states that were bigger, more prosperous than Gujarat as well as those who were growing faster than Gujarat. I have also written in the past about the fractious and divided nature of BJP’s leadership pyramid. This fact is now emerging as another major headache forModi in his quest for the PM’s job….

But let’s first come back to the growth story. Today’s story in the TOI by Dipankar Gupta “Telling the Whole story” is an amazingly well written piece on how the Congress has led Narendra Modi get away with claiming all the credit for Gujarat’s progress. The article brings out several stats to prove what I have also written earlier. Some nuggets: 1) In 1991, a full 10 years before Modi arrived, as many as 17,940 out of 18,028 villages were already electrified 2) 87.5% of Gujarat’s road were already asphalted before Modi. 3) By 2000-01, Gujarat’s share in India’s manufacturing had already risen to 28.7%. 4) Since 1980, Gujarat has been India’s poster state. Modi has nothing to do with the world’s largest ship-breaking yard coming up in Bhavnagar, nor with the setting up of the Ambani refinery in Jamnagar. 5) Well before Modi, Gujarat accounted for 45% of India’s petroleum products 6) Since the 1990s, Gujarat produces as much as 26% of the country’s pharmaceuticals 7) Because of the CM Chimanbhai Patel’s intervention in 1993, port traffic in the state jumped from a mere 3.18 million tonnes tonnes in1981 to 86.1 million tonnes in 2001. 8) During the 1990s, Gujarat successfully augmented 35% of its power generation capacity. 9) If Gujarat’s agriculture is prospering today, it is because the state has begun to receive Sardar Sarovar waters from 2002. Modi had little to do with the inauguration of this project, but he was at the right place at the right time to take the credit for it. If there was ever a person who reaped what somebody else had sown, then that is Modi. What Dipankar Gupta has not written is that Gujarat’s agricultural output is so small that even a high growth rate in agriculture means little. Even today, after the tripling of production, overall foodgrains production in Gujarat is just 7.8 million tonnes. Compare this with UP (47 million tonnes), Punjab (27 million), Rajasthan (19 million), Haryana (16 million), Andhra (16 million), Maharashtra (15 million), Madhya Pradesh (15 million), West Bengal (14 million), Karnataka (13 million) and even lowly Bihar (10 million), and Gujarat’s growth number starts looking pale. Gujarat’s foodgrains production is just about comparable with Orissa’s and Chhatisgarh – a number that must surely irk Modi supporters. 10) It is not as if Gujarat is the richest state either; Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra and Kerala are all much better off…..

As if being attacked on his development plank was not enough, Modi has been under attack from his own party for his lofty political ambitions. Frankly, there is nothing wrong for Modi to have ambitions of being the PM one day. He has a strong following in Gujarat; and there are others outside of Gujarat who see him as a strong administrator. His obvious Hindutva bias (Aakar Patel wrote recently in Mint Lounge that he hasn’t given a single ticket to Muslims in the last three assembly and Parliament elections) holds appeal to some of the more extreme Hindus around the country. The problem however is that there are too many contenders for the PM’s post within the BJP. There are Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley – both leaders of opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively. Nitin Gadkari must surely fancy his chances – being the President of the party (If BJP’s attack on the dual power structure of the Congress, where Sonia is the party President and MMS the PM, is anything to go by, then only Nitin Gadkari should become PM when the BJP’s turn comes). And then there are the likes of Advani, Rajnath Singh and others who must also be hoping for a good hand of cards to be dealt to them. Then there are strong NDA aspirants like Nitesh Kumar. I have argued in the past that Modi will find the going tough – because his Hindutva image will isolate many sections of the population – including Hindus, most of whom do not have extreme views on religion. The only time the BJP came to power – it was the moderate Vajpayee who became the PM – not the aggressive Advani.

The problem for Modi also is that the RSS appears to be going against him too. What Modi seems to be forgetting is that the ultimate boss in the BJP set-up is the RSS. It is the RSS that decides who stands for the PM’s position and who doesn’t (It is also a much-believed fact that the RSS influences policies of all BJP governments, but the BJP is coy about this). By re-inducting Sanjay Joshi – a man that Modi apparently conspired to have removed from the party a few years back – and by giving him charge of UP, the RSS has obviously cocked a snook at Modi. And then there is the bait that Nitish Kumar threw at him by agreeing to flag off Advani’s meaningless rath yatra from Bihar. Except for Jaitley, no one seems to be protecting Modi. After making the usual noises, the BJP central leadership refused to press for the removal of the Gujarat Governor, in spite of her provocative action of appointing a Lok Ayukta against Modi’s wishes. The central leadership of the BJP is defending Modi on the Sanjiv Bhatt arrest, but it’s clear that it is getting panned nationally. I’ve written about this earlier – on the one hand, Modi is a strong asset for the BJP winning Gujarat three times in a row; but on the other very important hand, Modi is also a huge liability for the party. The more Modi rises, the less the BJP’s chances of winning at the center. Modi realizes this. Hence the hamhanded and insincere attempt at wooing the Muslims through the sadbhavana yatra. But a tiger cannot change its stripes. By arresting Sanjiv Bhatt, Modi’s again stands accused by many of running his state in a dictatorial style. As a result of the party’s disingenuous supporting of Modi, he is sulking. This is why he didn’t attend the party’s national executive recently. That must have really hurt the BJP – for the party, there is trouble in Karnataka (corruption leading to sacking of CM), Gujarat (defiant regional satrap), Uttarakhand (corruption leading to sacking of CM) and Bihar (Nitish Kumar doesn’t agree with BJP’s Hindutva strategy)…..When BJP leaders say they have many worthwhile leaders who can become PM, I am sure they did not mean it this way!

The real truth is that Modi is cornered. People outside Gujarat will not let him claim credit for Gujarat’s development record or forgive him for what he is accused of in Godhra. And people within his party won’t allow him to achieve his ambitions outside the state. Will Modi quit the BJP and set up his own party…..that must surely be an option he must be considering. The results in the past have been mixed for people who have thought similarly. Remember Sharad Pawar and his NCP – unfortunately, he’s further away from the PM’s job than he was before he split…..What will Modi do…..this is going to be an interesting one to watch!

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