Modi and Uncertainty


Modi and Uncertainty, 2014 General Elections Narendra Modi, festival of democracy, Nilotpal Basu. With the Election Commission setting out the...

Reportedly, 9,829 workers, 5,447 farmers and 919 labourers have committed suicide during Modi’s tenure. Over 3.98 lakh farmers are without electricity connections. With highest poverty rate in the country, the state debt in Gujarat has climbed steadily from Rs 87,010 crore in 2008-09 to Rs 98,528 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 1,12,462 crore in 2010-11.

With the Election Commission setting out the schedule for the 2014 General Elections a bizarre spectacle of flux has come to visit political parties and combinations. The unprecedented nine phase elections have been referred to by the mainstream media through countless euphemisms like ‘dance of democracy’, ‘festival of democracy’, so on and so forth. But while such eulogies may contain an element of truth, they can hardly hide the inconsequential that dominate public discourse. And obviously, despite the pitch for Narendra Modi, the campaign can hardly gloss over the reality; the very same narratives do point out to the uncertain environment.

This uncertainty was in public display with reports of tussle among the top BJP leadership. Significantly, a major bone of contention was the choice of the seat from which Modi will contest. This is really surprising. Now for almost six months, the saffron brigade, that too at the instance of the big brother – the RSS – has decided to pitch for Modi as their Prime Ministerial projection. Unlimited financial resources, professional public relations and ad agencies are at work, crores are being spent for organising the central meetings that Modi is addressing; but despite that, his candidature is not yet settled, is indeed baffling. And more so, as media has reported quoting Sushma Swaraj, that if indeed, there is a ‘Modi wave’- why should there be such a dispute. And why the man who has taken pains to manicure his image as an inheritor of the Patel legacy is not intent in fighting a Lok Sabha seat from Gujarat? The problem seems to be elsewhere. A careful scrutiny of the Modi campaign clearly reveals that it is based on two tracks. The first and the major track is a no-holds-barred attack on the performance of the UPA government. On this the Modi campaign is obviously striking a responsive chord. The second track is on a perfunctory reference to his successful record as the Gujarat Chief Minister; popular coinage is the ‘Gujarat Model’.

But what is striking that there is absolutely no attempt on the first count for dissecting the policy reasons which have afflicted the UPA performance; not to speak of its disastrous impact on the conditions of life and livelihood of the aam aadmi. While the emphasis is on ‘policy paralysis’, there is very little in terms of why the ‘paralysis’; and more importantly, what policies and whether those policies were germane to the distress of the people. This only points out to exactly similar paradigm which has characterised Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi’s governmental preferences. Therefore, the critique of the UPA is cosmetic; at the heart there is something else.

But perhaps, the bigger problem lies on the second track – the so-called ‘Gujarat Model’. With the campaign pitch escalating, details of the track record of the Gujarat government is coming under the microscope, howsoever loud the Gujarat government advertisements may claim on an unprecedented level in the mainstream media.

‘Vibrant Gujarat’ the annual jamboree of investors have highlighted the high profile style of the Gujarat chief minister and earned kudos; so much so, that even the Metro man Sreedharan lauds the PM aspirant’s qualities as a ‘doer’ and ‘go getter’. But what is the actual outcome of such highly publicised public relation exercises. Maharashtra leads as the top FDI destination with Gujarat trailing on the 5th position. The ‘socio-economic review’, Gujarat State, 2012-12 itself concedes that out of the promised investments in 2011 over Rs 20 lakh crore only Rs 29,813 crore did get eventually invested. It also states that out of 8,300 MoUs signed only 250 were realised. Similar reports reveal the yawning gap between promises and the real achievement.

What is in it for the people? The single point obsession with economic growth rates again displays a bleak picture. There is no commensurate generation of employment. NSSO census of 2011 clearly establishes the disconnect between economic growth and slippage on basic human development.

But then who cares for the people? Definitely, Modi does not. Reportedly, 9,829 workers, 5,447 farmers and 919 labourers have committed suicide during Modi’s tenure. Over 3.98 lakh farmers are without electricity connections. With highest poverty rate in the country, the state debt in Gujarat has climbed steadily from Rs 87,010 crore in 2008-09 to Rs 98,528 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 1,12,462 crore in 2010-11.

Then, who does Modi care for? Instances galore clearly delineate a strong bonding between Modi administration and top corporate interest in the country.

Gujarat chief minister’s capacity to allot ‘instant land’ for industrial projects is phenomenal, inducing corporates to line up for a ‘sweetheart deal’. Instead of auctioning prime land, Modi allegedly allots land to industrialists who sign MoUs in the ‘Vibrant Gujarat Summits’.

The Tata story is startling. Tata Motors odyssey to Sanand from Singur witnessed Modi rolling out the red carpet. It took only a couple of days for the land allotment. As a favoured corporate, Tata Motors got Rs 33,000 crore concession for its project. 1,100 acres of land allegedly sold at Rs 900/sq m compared to market rate of Rs 10,000/sq m, allowing Tatas a kill.

And that’s for starters. Tatas were allowed to pay in installments of Rs 50 crore each at six-month intervals. The land meant for a veterinary university originally belonging to the state government was de-reserved and allotted to Tata Motors without following any due process and with no transparency in no time.

Tatas’ got a loan of Rs 9,570 crore at 0.10 per cent interest with a moratorium of 20 years. The deal is blessed with exemption from payment of stamp duty, registration charges on conveyance or transfer of land, road and rail connectivity, land for ancillaries and water on exceptionally concessional terms. Overall, Gujarat exchequer loses a whopping Rs 33,000 crore on Nano plant; with each car produced in Sanand, the state government’s contribution is more than Rs 60,000. Conversely, the Gujarat tax-payer loses Rs 60,000 on a continuous basis.

While Sanand is touted as the greatest ‘feather’ on Modi’s ‘cap’, other major corporates do not lag far behind in ‘largesse’ receipt. Similar detailed narratives for L&T, Adanis, Essars and Ambanis are very much in the public domain. Hence, the corporate media is replete with references to the ‘Modi wave’.

As much as these ‘cronies’ make a kill at the expense of the common man, the sharply deteriorating levels of social sector and human development indices underline the signature tune of the ‘Gujarat Model’. But this chasm between governance and popular concerns is not symptomatic of Gujarat alone; what distinguished ‘Gujarat Model’ was the exceptional level of unilateralism, aggressive, opacity and insensivity towards the aam aadmi.

Cronyism for the high and the mighty while neglect for the man on the street characterises the vacuous Gujarat Model; this explains the two-pronged campaign. Despite its criticism over the UPA’s record, it cannot provide any alternative. This is the root of uncertainty that features the current mood. Away from the singular obsession with corporate friendliness, a people-centric alternative can only surmount the seething disquiet.

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