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Showing posts from May, 2012

Congress in Gujarat: Waiting for Godot

By Rajiv Shah A few days back, I happened to have an informal chat with a senior Congress leader. Belonging to Gujarat, this leader has made his way to the high command, going pretty close to party president Sonia Gandhi, which he more often than not nauseatingly proclaims, not unusual for a Congressman. Yet, I found something uncommon in him. I have known him before he decided to join politics more than a decade ago. At that time, he was more of a human rights activist, running an organisation in a backward Gujarat region which fought for the sake of a neglected section. I would enjoy visiting the far-flung areas under his influence talking with workers trained by him. One may dispute his approach and ways, but his unflinching commitment to the cause of the poor seemed impressive. I always thought, this leader's decision to enter politics was wrong, as he would have to make odd compromises. Yet, he would brush aside my suggestion as "failure to understand certain advantages o

Whose GIFT is it anyway?

By Rajiv Shah Ever heard of a proposed location called Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT)? If you haven’t, you are either ignorant or you have actually missed out on grabbing a real opportunity. At least this is the conclusion one should draw after perusing through an authoritative presentation on the dream project of Gujarat’s No 1, chief minister Narendra Modi, dished out by his powerful propaganda machine. Believe it or not, this high-level presentation on the proposed state-sponsored GIFT project declares that “85 per cent of Gujarat’s residents want to relocate to GIFT.” Interestingly, the presentation is quiet on which “Gujarat’s residents” it is talking about, where the survey was made, and by whom. As if this isn’t enough, it insists, “While only 24 per cent of non-residents (sic!) are willing to shift to Gujarat as a state, the percentage almost doubles (45 per cent) when it comes to shifting to GIFT.” Again, no sources have been quoted. If you do not know what GIFT

Of hype, misadventure and Gujarat's powerdom

By Rajiv Shah It was a Sunday. On June 25, 2005, Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi called an urgent press conference to announce the "biggest ever gas find in India", valuing at around Rs 2 lakh crore. Quietly sitting at my residence, I had to rush to Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration (SPIPA), Ahmedabad, which is Gujarat's counterpart of Indian Institute of Public Admnistration (IIPA), Delhi. It was raining rather heavily, and my daughter had to virtually sail through the flooded city to reach Satellite Road to drop me at SPIPA. Modi announced that premier state PSU Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) had "discovered" 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas, "more than the total gas find of India", at KG basin off Andhra coast. All of Modi's ministers were called on the occasion to listen to him. I interacted with several of them at the high tea that followed. They unanimously called it "Modi's great feat". I

Centripetal undercurrents of Gujarat's No 1

By Rajiv Shah Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi once again, on May 5, harped on federalism theme, his favorite for the last several months. Speaking at the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) in Delhi, he repeated what he had said previously at least on dozen occasions -- that there are “well defined and constitutionally mandated” centre-state relations, that there are “disturbing trends” which reveal the Centre’s “autocratic mindset” seeking to undermine “all canons of federalism.” He cited several instances, including proposed enactments to Railway Protection Act and Border Security Force Act, saying the Centre was behaving like the “viceroys of the yore.” While Modi’s reflections on federalism mirrors today’s political reality when centrifugal forces become stronger every day, it is amusing that they come from a leader who is a known centralizer in Gujarat. Take, for instance, the Cabinet he heads. Modi is not just Gujarat’s chief minister. As someone who matters in Sachi