If a library is a thought in cold storage, a politician is a pragmatist selling pipedreams for a meal ticket. Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is nearing an year in national harness has had a charmed existence cashing in on a negatively projected past while proclaiming his own governance as the harbinger of a bright future. "achche din aane wale hai”- good times are round the corner. Modi will complete a year on May 26 this year but people still wait for the professed deliverance, their patience wearing thin.
Meanwhile, the word splurge continues. Like before. Four thousand six hundred and ten days in the chief ministerial chair in Gujarat, we were fed dollops of it. The past provides a perfect mirror to the future so let's take a look.
With great fanfare and at great expense- the then chief minister Modi announced the revival of the mythical Saraswati river at Siddhpur in North Gujarat on September 8, 2005 through diversion of the Narmada waters. The Saraswati-Narmada Mahasangam it was called. In the presence of a variety of hindu ’mahapundits’ representing all sub-sects (even the now jailed Asaram was in attendance) all blessing the chief minister and his ministers comparing him with Bhagirathi, the process of the revival of the mythical river was initiated.
This correspondent was amongst those present at the spot. Almost a lakh strong crowd had been collected through State Transport buses sent statewide. Frenzied men,women and children, jumped into the artificial pond that had been created with plastic lined sheets for a cleansing bath carrying the, by now muddied water, in pots, pans and ‘lottas’ as a pious ‘prasad’.
Ten years down the line, there is no trace of any ’Saraswati’ nor the pool. In hindsight it was just a publicity gimmick on which the government blew up loads of cash. Modi has moved on from Siddhpur to Kashi. He is now the Prime Minister and to rub salt on sore wounds, senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Dilip Pandya who hails from Siddhpur has received a letter from the Government of India, ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation in December 2014 “that since the state government has not submitted any plan, hence there is no plan for the development of the Saraswati in Gujarat”.
On June 27, 2005 with great elan, chief minister Modi announced India’s biggest gas find in 30 years at a packed press conference in Ahmedabad. "GSPC has struck gas in Krishna-Godavari (KG) basin,off Andhra Pradesh coast in Bay of Bengal. Reserves estimated at 20 tcf (trillion cubic ft) estimated at $50 billion. Modi promptly named the gasfield Deendayal after the veteran Jan Sangh leader. The media went gaga over the newsbreak. It made global headlines.
"Simply put, gas production from here alone can end up firing 10,000 MW of power. This is enough to meet peak power requirements of Delhi and Bombay”said one such. "It will account for one-fifth of India’s gas production", chimed in another. As the PR pitch touched a crescendo, it was time for a reality check."It was 2 tcf not 20, the media got it all wrong”, was the first from official Gujarat government sources. The Director General of Hydrocarbons moved in thereafter reducing the authentication certification to one-tenth of the originally named figure.
The announcement came a tad too late. Modi had already milked the issue bone dry and moved on to Delhi. The 2007 State Assembly elections provided a classic example.His by- now- famous hyperboles rent the poll campaign. ”Every house in Gujarat will have it’s own oil well(‘tel na kua’) ", he said, weaving a magical spell of domestic affluence with his oratory.
Ten years down the line, forget oil and gas,even piped drinking water is a pipedream. As summer stares in the face, cries of drinking water shortage are being heard from all corners of the state. As for the tall claims, the fact is that GSPC has so far spent Rs 14,000 crores with commercial production nowhere in sight. Presenting a vote-on-account in February 2014, state finance minister Saurabh Patel had stated ” commercial production from the fields will start at the earliest ".
Replying to a question in the budget session which concluded on March 31,2015 the same gentleman stated that commercial production from the gasfield was taking time because, both geographically and technically, it is a difficult terrain”. The cat was finally out of the bag when Kapil Dave in his report in the Times of India edition dated April 19 stated that GSPC has decided to systematically withdraw from gas exploration . The move comes after the state-owned company has spent more than Rs 19,000 crore ($3 billion) of public money on exploring for gas.
Gujarat’s gift to India is nonpareil when it comes to verbal calisthenics. If it was gasfields in the 2007 Assembly elections, solar was the flavor of the season in the 2012 state polls. Modi had already pulled out all stops in pursuing solar among sources of renewable energy. He rubbed it in hard with campaign rhetoric.
"Every rooftop will be a source of power, both generational as well as financial”, he said, adding, “You will generate for your own use and sell the excess to garner financial muscle for yourselves". To add shine to the shovel,he declared the state capital,Gandhinagar,a solar city. Solar lights were fixed on a showcase road leading from Gandhinagar to the airport. These have since disappeared, replaced by conventional lights. Except for government bungalows,solar power in private houses are few and far between. In government houses too, most remain out of order.
The solar city or plastic free state capital is more a joke than anything else. So much for the vocal and verbose where the chief minister once proudly claimed that his was the first state in the country to set up a special department for climate change. First in Asia,fourth province in the world. Yes but in the breach. Everyday,as a matter of routine, fallen tree leaves and other garden waste is incinerated outside the homes of top government officers by sanitation and cleaning staff in the employ of official agencies!
As for solar power generation,Gujarat currently tops with a commissioned capacity of 929 MW out of the country’s total capacity of 3,002.66 MW. With no significant addition in recent years to it’s capacity,it is soon set to be overtaken by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh who are aggressively promoting it.The Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor Summit held in Gandhinagar which Modi refers to as ‘Davos in action’ this year saw only one investment proposal for a 51 MW proposed solar power generation unit only. Gautam Adani’s AEL has also signed an MOU for a 10,000 MW solar project but in neighbouring Rajasthan.
Thus it is that the flow of rhetoric witnessed during the Lok Sabha elections that catapulted Modi to power in Delhi was essentially the continuation of the same vocal largesse when there was talk of citizenry gaining Rs 15 lakh to every bank account or of the country benefiting from one man’s inordinate run of luck. "Why should you then opt for one who is not”, was a question posed to the people of Delhi. The answer was short,simple and stunning. Pompous verbosity is not part of the Indian political ethos.
Deliver. And if you don't....thereafter don’t ask for whom the bell tolls. For, it tolls for YOU!
*Senior journalist. This article has also appeared in http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.in/