Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Unsavory tales of governance from Gujarat….

So many stories coming from Gujarat, now that Modi has decided to project himself as the BJP’s PM candidate. As the smog around him lifts, it becomes more and more clear that Gujarat is hardly the exemplar of great governance it is made out to be. At first, it was only the fake claims of development: hugely exaggerated investment numbers courtesy Vibrant Gujarat, brushing-under-the-carpet of the dark spots like HDI numbers, and of course, usurping of the state’s prosperity and development, even though that predated his regime. But now, questions of basic governance are being raised.

Take two stories which have come out in the news in the last couple of days. Vanzara’s resignation letter is of course the most telling. As if it required any proof, the point that Vanzara makes is that the political bigwigs in Gujarat knew of the encounters (fake or otherwise). And its obvious isn’t it? How can a police officer and his team just keep going about killing supposed terrorists without the knowledge of their bosses? And how is it that such fake encounters only started after Modi took over (Its not to do with Godhra as Vanzara claims; anyone who has lived in Gujarat knows that the Hindu-Muslim conflict existed from earlier times; encounters could have been orchestrated even back then but they never were)? So the Gujarat government is in a trap now; if Vanzara is right, it shows that the top leadership of the party was involved in the heinous acts of crime against the minorities and if Vanzara is lying, then what kind of governance is it when the Home Minister/CM don’t know what their own police officers are up to? Either way, Modi’s governance gets questioned.

When Vanzara writes “The Gujarat CID/CBI arrested me… for alleged fake encounters. If that is true, then CBI investigating officers of all four encounter cases of Shohrabuddin, Tulasiram, Sadique Jamal and Isharat Jahan have to arrest the policy formulators as we, being field officers, implemented the conscious policy of this government”, he is laying the blame straight on Modi’s doorsteps. When he adds “I have to state ...that this spineless government of Gujarat which is valiant only in words ... coward in deeds and impotent in actions has ceased to command my allegiance, trust and loyalty”, maybe he is angry, but this questions the carefully nurtured “hardline” image of Modi’s. There is also a hidden threat embedded here. God knows what Vanzara will spill out next. It’s like when a terrorist is arrested, much more hitherto-unknown grist emerges.

The other shocker in the news is the PIL filed in the Supreme Court alleging Modi knew of the fake encounter. According to firstpost (, “Journalist Pushp Sharma, who conducted the sting operation, today told a press conference to have recordings which indicated that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was aware that Prajapati was killed in a fake encounter.” And also: “According to Sharma, he has recordings that indicate the BJP leaders were successful in getting Narmada Prajapati, Tulsi’s mother, to sign at least six blank vakalatnamas (documents which declare who one’s lawyer is). “These documents which Narmada Prajapati signed are very crucial because with them it allowed the lawyer to change the course of the trial the way the BJP wanted to,” he said”. This is really really bad. Getting blank papers signed by the mother is hardly the sign of a well governed state. It’s hardly an endorsement of Modi’s governance.

Then again, the Lok Ayukta story – the Governor returning back the state’s hurriedly enacted bill – brings to the fore the complete lack of commitment of the Modi government and the BJP towards fighting corruption. First Karnataka, where the party was routed for corruption. Now Gujarat, where the CM, with all his smarts, wants to ensure that a strong Lok Ayukta never comes about in the state. When Modi kept losing one legal battle after another against the appointment of Justice Mehta as the Lok Ayukta, he enacted a new law grabbing more powers for the ruling establishment to anoint the key functionary. But why is Modi so worried about having an independently appointed Lok Ayukta? Why has there not been any Lok Ayukta in the state for nearly ten years? What would a Lok Ayukta find in the state? And can we expect Modi to enact a similarly weak Lokpal Act at the center if he becomes PM? And if he does that, what will he tell Anna Hazare? His party has already backtracked from the unified Lokpal-Lok Ayukta Act commitment made to him. It’s strange, but I thought the BJP accused the Congress of not bringing out a strong Lokpal. Here, the tables have been reversed. Is this Modi’s brand of strong governance?

The real truth is that both of these stories paint a picture of Modi which is hardly inspiring. He is hardly the guru of governance that he is made out to be. His style of governance is one of muzzling dissent and squashing any challenges to him or his government. With a solid majority in the Assembly (and credit to him for that), he has built a great aura around himself. But when we scratch the surface, we see a totally different picture. And its very unsavory….

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