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Showing posts from June, 2012

Simply Keshubhai

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By Rajiv Shah
He was addressed as “dinosaur” by late Congress chief minister Amarsinh Chaudhury, but Gujarat government officials recall him for being too much of a “simpleton”, who easily succumbed to all types of pressures, whether from the family, or bureaucrats, or politicians whom he trusted blindly. Whatever he has been, former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who has allowed his decades-old association with the BJP to lapse just a few days ahead of his 83rd birthday, July 24, will now attract attention on how he seeks to influence Gujarat’s polity, about to witness assembly elections six months from now. Despite being old, his supporters say, he is seen as “Keshubapa” by the economically better off and socially influential community of Leuva Patels, especially in the Saurashtra region, to which he belongs.
I came in contact with Keshubhai in 1998, though I met him once earlier, somewhat briefly, in early 1994 when he was opposition leader in the Gujarat state assembly. In 1998, …

And quiet flows the Narmada…

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By Rajiv Shah
It was a Sunday. I was preparing to drive down to Ahmedabad from my Gandhinagar residence on June 17, in the afternoon. Suddenly, I got a phone call from one of the most controversial activists of India, Medha Patkar. She said, she was in Ahmedabad, why not meet? I readily agreed. I may have talked to her several times on phone to find out what she thought on issues related with the Narmada project, but never had an occasion to meet her.
She had come to Ahmedabad for the second time in a year to appear in an Ahmedabad court regarding a case involving assault on her during - what many in consider - her "unwarranted" visit to Sabarmati Ashram in 2002 to attend a gathering of Gandhians and activists to protest Gujarat riots. Organizers of the 2002 meeting, including well-known danseuse and activist Mallika Sarabhai, were quick to distance themselves from Patkar’s sudden appearance saying the meeting was in no way "connected with the Narmada cause with which Pa…

Insecure Central ministers vs uneasy Gujarat babus

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By Rajiv Shah
Last Wednesday, when three senior ministers from Government of India - P Chidambaram, Ambika Soni and Salman Khursheed - landed up in Ahmedabad merely to "showcase" the Centre’s contribution to Gujarat’s development, I was taking a round of Sachivalaya in Gandhinagar. Time was 3.00 pm, and the ministers were about to address the media, which is what they had come for. I entered the room of one of the senior-most bureaucrats, who was found to be frantically changing TV channels in order to catch the station which would broadcast the press conference live. Flanked by three other officials, all working under him, this bureaucrat curtly remarked: "What the hell! Our chief secretary has asked us to watch live the three ministers’ press conference." The officials had their pen and paper ready.
Amused, I walked out and moved towards Gujarat chief secretary Achal Kumar Joti's office, just a few yards away. I peeped into the conference room attached to the…

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

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By Rajiv Shah
Does Gujarat government fudge figures to “prove” its success story? The suspicion is, indeed, not new. I recollect how chief minister Narendra Modi, post-2002 riots, insisted for at least three continuous years that Gujarat’s annual rate of growth was 14.6 per cent. I also believed him (and his aides) till one fine day a senior bureaucrat showed me unofficially – that the high rate was being shown even for the year when it was around six per cent! At a press conference that followed – a rarity nowadays – I asked Modi about his comment on this six per cent. He looked around for a while, and on getting a reply from an aide murmured, “When you are already on a high pedestal, it is difficult to go higher.” One can possibly say, then, he had political reasons for hyping Gujarat’s growth story. He wanted to establish himself, wanted people to forget riots and see how Gujarat had already become No 1 under him.
Things, apparently, have not changed more than half-a-decade later, …