Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Modi’s glass half full of water and air, or blood and gas???

In a college in Delhi yesterday, Narendra Modi, one of the BJP’s legion of PM aspirants said that he neither the saw a half-filled glass of water as half full, or as half empty. Instead, he saw it as half full of water and half of air. Err….I am sorry, but that’s a bit of an overclaim, just like everything else the Gujarat CM claims. In reality, the glass that Narendra Modi holds is half full of blood (of the Godhra victims) and half full of gas (the false claims he makes about the economic growth story of Gujarat). 

Lets take the gas first. I wrote about Modi’s growth claim first in Sept 2011 when Modi started on his Sadbhavna joke: “Modi’s growth story is a sham…..”. But many others have written about this growth chimera that Modi is attempting to create. On Oct 6, 2011, Dipankar Gupta wrote in the TOI: “Telling the Whole story” about how the Gujarat CM has misled the nation. The article brought out several stats to prove the point. 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 did not write was that Gujarat’s agricultural output is so small even today that a high growth rate 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), arid 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. It is not as if Gujarat is the richest state either; Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra and Kerala are all much better off….

Some more statistic to prove the natural gas in Modi’s claims? As per RBI data, the growth in Gujarat under Madhavsinh Solanki and Amarsingh Chaudhary (1980-81 to 1989-90) and Chimanbhai Patel (1990-91 to 1993-94) was stronger than under Modi. More statistics? Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra, Delhi (all Cong ruled states) and Bihar, Orissa, even TN (all non-Cong, non-BJP states) have achieved growth rates higher than Gujarat. For those who may argue that Gujarat’s “base is bigger today”, let me assure them that the base for Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra and TN is even bigger. More stats? On poverty, Gujarat is ranked at a lowly 8th. On Human Development Index, it is a shameful record again. And on “Vibrant Gujarat”, where Modi claims half of India’s business leaders were “under one roof”, please ask how much of the announcements actually converted…..a measly 12% from four years back….

One other point on economics. On corruption, the impression that Modi creates is that he has not been linked to any scams. Of course he isn’t. How can he be when he “smartly” managed to stop the appointment of a Lok Ayukta in his state? And even when he was considering amending his Lok Ayukta Act, he wanted to have a majority (3 out of 5) members from the government, exactly opposite of what his central leadership was demanding from the Congress government at the center! Now that the Supreme Court has ruled against Modi and cleared the appointment of Justice Mehta as the state’s Lok Ayukta, we should see the beans spilling out. Before that happens, Modi wants to leapfrog to the center.

So yes, while the roads are good, and the industrial climate in Gujarat even better….for that, make sure you praise the people of Gujarat…..and not their “Hindu Hriday Samrat” who rules them.

That brings me to the other half of Modi’s glass – the glass that holds the blood of the Godhra victims. The blood that earned Modi the above title in the first place. The blood that continues to remain on his hands as he refuses to give proportionate representation to Muslims in his party and government. The blood of fake encounters, of personalized attacks on police officers who dare speak against him, and of his own party workers (ask Haren Pandya’s wife). The blood spilled over him by his party leaders who brought down the Babri Masjid. There is a lot of blood in Modi’s cup. In fact, it’s more than half the glass. It’s so much that the glass is spilling over with the blood.

The likes of VHP leader Ashok Singhal are crooning for Modi. Of course they will. Who else will “teach the Muslims a lesson” but for Modi? Who else will “show them their place” but for him. Who else will bring back “Ram Rajya” but for Modi? Two decades back, it was Advani. Today it is Modi. Two decades back, Advani got pipped to the PM’s job by a moderate – Vajpayee. One year later, we will see what happens to Modi….maybe this is what worries the BJP leadership and the RSS. Maybe when the BJP is this close to power (as it imagines), it doesn’t want to take the risk with Modi….

So what are we saying about Modi? That he is a bad CM. Not at all. He’s a good CM who has done a good job of continuing with the work his predecessors started. But he is full of gas in his claims of being better than the others. Is he bad for the PM’s post? No. He’s as good as a candidate as any in the BJP as far as hardcore BJP supporters go. But when it comes to allies, no one wants to touch him. Is he charismatic? Of course he is. Why else would he attrack so much media coverage and so many posts from me! Is he just a marketing gas bag? Yes. Exactly. Is it bad to market oneself so well? No. It’s part of the game!

The real truth is that Modi’s good oratory gets him the media bytes. He makes an initial impression on people. But by the time the actual voting happens, much of the initial impression is replaced by other impressions. All of which together bring out the truth about a person. Very soon, the students of SRCC, progressive liberals I would imagine, will see what Modi’s glass is filled with….

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