Saturday, January 24, 2009

Modi As Prime Minister

It looks like all that a Chief Minister has to do to be projected as Prime Minister is call in the corporate czars for an investment conference and hold out the promise of open season for their business. So it would appear with leading businessmen of the country like Ratan Tata, Anil Ambani and Sunil Bharti Mittal rooting for the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as future Prime Minister. Airing their views at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, held recently in Ahmedabad—which its promoters claim resulted in the signing of 8,500 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs). The MoUs involved a total investment of Rs. 12 lakh crore in the State. The business tycoons lauded Modi’s dynamism and virtually hailed him as the country’s next Prime Minister.
While not going quite so far as to confer future Prime Ministership on Modi, Tata joined in the hallelujah chorus by publicly proclaiming that the State Chief Minister had given the Mamta-orphaned Nano, the country’s cheapest car, a safe haven in record time.
According to Bakul Dholakia, former Director of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), “There are leaders who have a grand vision. There are some who have tremendous administrative capabilities. And there are those who enjoy popular support. In Modi, we have a combination of all this. If villagers see him as their leader, corporates see him as a CEO”.
In the words of Mukesh Patel, a member of FICCI’s National Executive, “Gujarat power situation is regarded as the best among States at present. This had helped it dramatically improve its contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), both in terms of agricultural and industrial production. As against the 10.2 per cent growth rate in the last five years, the Planning Commission states that the target for Gujarat is 11.2 per cent for the next five years. The projection for 2008-09 is 13 per cent, way above the national target. Modi is a dreamer and he knows how to achieve them. He may even exceed these targets”.
Assembly Election Factor
Modi’s stunning victory in the 2007 State Assembly elections has all the elements of a classical Indian style electoral wave. It levelled the usual political regions, urban centres as well as rural hinterland and different phases of polling behaved in a similar fashion. Barring a part of central Gujarat that returned to the Congress after a abnormal fluctuation in 2002, the rest of the State returned nearly a uniform verdict. The wave swept aside all factors that caught media attention—rebels, internal dissension, local disaffection and caste-community equations. This election may be remembered as the Moditva wave and perhaps rightly so. But the point is to recognise what constitutes Moditva. This is not an irrational personality cult. Like all charismatic and authoritarian politicians, Modi responds to some deep quest of an ordinary citizen. He appears to be the dedicated and clean yet effective and strong leader that citizens yearn for in a democracy. Modi had legitimate reasons for showcasing his Government’s firm commitment towards internal security issues in post 2002 riots in Gujarat. Despite the State being on top of the hit-list of all jehadi groups in the sub-continent after the Godhra riots, not one major terrorist incident has taken place in Gujarat in the six years of the BJP rule. The State Government has been able to harmonise internal conflict with economic and industrial reforms even while there were agitations over industrial policies in certain parts of the country. To add to this, there is little or hardly any infiltration to Naxalism among Gujarat’s tribals, in sharp contrast to rising Maoist movements in tribals of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and even Maharashtra.
Missed Issues
Though the massacre of Muslims in 2002 under Modi’s statesmanship may be a minor issue for these business leaders, there are some bigger points they have overlooked.
The first major issue the corporate giants have missed to mark is neither the people nor the parties of the country are likely to take their advocacy of Modi’s candidature seriously. When a FICCI delegation met former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to express support for the Emergency, one of the country’s most acclaimed editors noted that they are men who would have done this anyway; “honourably if they can, dishonestly if they must”. Same way, should political heavyweights expect them to endorse their candidature, it is unlikely that any businessman would have the gumption to refuse.
Besides, there are some other bigger issues. The same Anil Ambani, thanks to his close association with the Samajwadi Party, was a member of the Rajya Sabha. Is the same person saying that he would be loathe to support former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav as Prime Minister? His answer is anyone’s guess. One feels sorry for the senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Lal Krishna Advani, who has to content with not only the Opposition but also opponents on his own turf.
The Other View
If we see the career of Modi, we find that he is a case study that will intrigue many people. He is a politician seeking to redefine himself and Gujarat. He is doing this not in terms of a holistic vision, but a fragmentary one. He has the industrialists on his side because he simplifies rules and regulations for them. He has the religious sects with him because he speaks the hybrid language of history and modernity. He claims the new by antagonizing the old, creating a middle class urban base that dreams of change, tried of the old grammar of party politics and caste equations. Perhaps no leader is more contemptuous of his own party than Modi.
So why did Tata, Ambani and Mittal so blatantly root for Modi and projecting him as the future Prime Minister? The only answer seems to be that in the present scenario in India nothing exceeds like supposed success, whether it is Ramalinga Raju’s Satyam Computers or Modi’s Gujarat. What matters is the bottom line; anything and everything else is irrelevant. But as Satyam Computers has so disastrously shown, the bottom line can be outrageously fudged. Undoubtedly, Modi has created an electric excitement. But the cries of pain can be heard when the current is off. The time will better tell the story.

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