Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Modi the Model?

Modi the Model?
December 11, 2007

The last time the state of Gujarat went to the polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party whipped up anti-Muslim sentiment to win re-election. Now, the BJP is running largely on a campaign of its core competency: economic reform. That's a far better model for the party to follow nationally.

Whether the BJP's reinvention will take root is another story, but the elections in Gujarat this week -- one of India's biggest states -- should provide a good guide. The current chief minister, Narendra Modi, is a controversial figure who played a role in the BJP's fall from grace nationally. As chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, his government stood idly by while more than 2,000 people died in ethnic violence.

That massacre was a key factor in voters ejecting the BJP from national office two years later -- a loss from which the party still hasn't recovered. But it didn't hurt Mr. Modi back home. He campaigned for re-election in Gujarat later that year by igniting anti-Muslim sentiment in a majority-Hindu state. Unusually for Indian state elections, where voters usually turf out incumbents, he won.

Mr. Modi has never fully addressed his government's mishandling of the massacre, which lasted for days while the police stood idly by. An October expose in Tehelka, an Indian magazine, even alleged that Mr. Modi was personally involved in the killings. Mr. Modi declined to comment on the piece. Whatever happened, Mr. Modi seems to have learned a political lesson from the 2002 riots. He spent the next five years playing down his Hindutva, or "Hinduness," streak and getting down to the business of running his state.

By and large, he's done an excellent job. Gujarat grew over 11% last year on the back of an influx of foreign investment and a robust manufacturing sector. In a country with subpar infrastructure, the Modi government has built roads, ensured a steady supply of electricity, eased labor restrictions and secured regular water supplies for rural areas, to name a few achievements.

That's put Mr. Modi in good stead for this week's election. The BJP holds 127 of its 182 seats in the state assembly and polls predict it will be returned to power. If he wins convincingly, Mr. Modi could emerge as a national leader for the BJP.

That might not be a bad thing, though Mr. Modi's history makes him a highly unlikely future prime minister. Mr. Modi achieved economic progress in Gujarat in large part because he wasn't afraid to tackle India's sacred cow: public-sector corruption. The chief minister put systems for public accountability of civil servants in place, installed more courts to work through a backlog of lawsuits and cut out whole layers of inefficient bureaucrats from decision-making processes.

That hasn't always won him friends within his party. A clutch of BJP members of Parliament have jumped ship to the Congress Party, which sees this election as a crucial vote that could boost its national power base. Mr. Modi has also lost support from two local castes, though the far-right Vishwa Hindu Parishad -- a Hindu group -- reluctantly pledged support this month.

Given that, you'd think that the Congress Party would feel emboldened to fight on core local issues, like education and health care. Instead, Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi called Mr. Modi a "merchant of death" at a rally in Gujarat earlier this month, reigniting ethnic tensions. Mr. Modi fired back, calling Mrs. Gandhi a "guardian of terrorists." The Election Commission is investigating both of them.
Both parties know they're treading a fine line. No one wants to see a repeat of the 2002 riots, least of all Mr. Modi's BJP, which sorely needs an electorial win. Mr. Modi's record shows that the BJP's economic platform works. But if the party wants to achieve a national platform again, it needs to address its past. If it did that, even voters outside of Gujarat might give the BJP a second chance.

How delightful to read the phrase "running dogs" again! I thought such language went out of fashion with Communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall....

Correct me, if I am wrong, but Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao - whose rule, I hope you will agree was brutal and ruthless, - were they neoliberals?

I don't want to resort to hyperbole here; suffice it to say that many investors would not like a government like Modi's. A government that maintains law and order by ignoring riots and public property, which fails to prosecute criminals, raises insurance costs for everyone, and adds the element of unpredictability in business, and is hardly liked the favorite of businesses. Narayana Murthy, Anu Agha, and Deepak Parekh are three among many people (others not well-known) from the private sector, who like economic liberalization, who don't have time for a leader like Modi. Modi claiming credit for industrial peace in Gujarat is a joke; the credit for that goes to the nearly century-old tradition built by Gandhi and his Majoor Mahajan, which is a pacifist, non-violent union (what else would one expect?), and Gujarati entrepreneural talent as well as industrial base are not Modi's gift to the state.

Salil/Still in LatAm.


Neoliberalism's darlings have quite often been brutal, ruthless
killers. Why are we surprised? From Suharto to Marcos to Fujimori the
record is legion. Brutish, ruthless, killers are often the most
effective, loyal, running dogs of imperialism. Modi's so-called
"record" on "development" is perhaps mouth-watering to the investor
class and a few beneficiaries in the middle class, but for the working
majority its a disaster. And of course, the brutality, hatred and
violent thuggishness this Sangh Parivarite Neanderthal brought to the
lives of Gujarati Muslims can never be forgotten, no matter how the
cheerleaders of capitalism try to gawk on about his alleged
"achievements." Shame on them for even considering whitewashing this

raja swamy

It is surprising educated individuals end up making a mockery by only seeing the coin on one side, what human rights are you talking about? Terrorist given justice quicker then Indian courts taking their own merry time or getting rid of the nuisance ASAP!?? I'm obviously referring to the much hyped controversial encounter of Sorabuddin. "Other" states in India who harbour these nonsense at whole are falling short in showing results and its a proven fact, Narendra Modi proved otherwise because he has the support of people, those who voted him in. He has never fallen short in giving out to them, it is only certain section of colleagues from his party and the anti-modi brigade (majority of pseudo secular Media, NGOs, the so called human rights activists). For a start let us all come to the term with the reality of him being real and he being accepted even after "Gujarat 2002" (the way you term it!) by his people. Your worry is because you get feed in with a certain ideologues, articles, figures and statements time and again which gets floated by those who think they got left out in what he is cherishing today, the fruits of thriving economy and solid development base to see the state being number one in all sectors, be it social economic well being of Gujaratis or the local non-Gujarati residents, be it the foreign investments or Indian biggies investing full hearty... These were the words from Ratan Tata saying "If you are not in Gujarat you are stupid" during an investor summit during January, watch it here:

Lets face the fact, Narendra Modi is real and he is going to be there for a long time to come.



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