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Showing posts from December, 2012

Urban Gujarat: The incumbency riddle

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By Rajiv Shah
Three years ago, a high-level Gujarat government document made a glaring observation, which I haven’t forgotten even today. Ever since I quoted the observation in a news story in late 2009, I have wondered: If things are really so appalling in urban areas, as the document tried to make out, then why do urban dwellers so strongly favour the ruling BJP in Gujarat? More, the urbanites’ voting share for the ruling party appears to have up after every electoral battle. While it may take some time for keen experts like Prof Ghanshyam Shah to analyze the data and identify a trend, even a cursory glance would show that in the last Gujarat assembly election, the saffron party won with great margins in 60-odd purely urban constituencies out of a total of 182. The victory margin ranged between over 1 lakh in Ghatlodia in Ahmedabad, where a Narendra Modi favourite won, to 17,000 in Porbandar, where a Congress stalwart was defeated. This was in complete contrast to rural Gujarat, whe…

Far from the madding crowd

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By Rajiv Shah
It was Friday, December 14, one day before the campaign for the Gujarat state assembly polls was to end. I reached my office in Gandhinagar unusually early, at 8.00 am. As I was about to reach, I noticed some journalist colleagues from the local electronics media getting ready to go to a rally that was to be addressed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi just about 20 km away, at Kalol town. They were busy prominently pasting “Media” in front of their car, so that the security wouldn’t bother them. One of them made a polite offer: “Come along, you will enjoy. We’ll return by the afternoon”. I refused, saying my intention was to go far from the madding crowd, away to a place where there wasn’t much of political noise.
“It’s generally sheer waste of time listening to a leader. They will all tell you all what you know about, nothing new”, I told them, as they looked at me suspiciously. I moved on to my office. After phoning up a couple of persons, I decided to go with a friend to…

Gujarat growth: the trickle down myth

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By Rajiv Shah
Over the past few weeks, whenever I visited a senior state bureaucrat’s chamber in Gandhinagar Sachivalaya, I would invariably notice a coffee table book prominently displayed – “Gujarat: Governance for Growth and Development”, authored by Prof Bibek Debroy, an economist who shot into prominence after he was forced to move out of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation several years ago. It’s a common knowledge: He had “researched” in a study report that Gujarat was No 1 in economic freedom index. This was his only fault. One of the bureaucrats proudly gave me a copy of the book, but not before telling me how Debroy had prepared the book after moving around Gujarat – of course, with every possible official help. Based on facts and figures in the book, this bureaucrat, just ahead of his retirement in October-end, made a presentation on Gujarat’s model of development at an evening get-together for state IAS bureaucrats called by chief minister Narendra Modi to mark his own 4,000 days …

Not so Vibrant Gujarat

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By Rajiv Shah
In case Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi wins the forthcoming assembly polls – which he is likely to with a comfortable margin, if one goes by pollsters’ predictions – we will witness yet another biennial Modi show, the sixth Vibrant Gujarat global summit. Gujarat’s bureaucrats, sure of Modi victory, haven’t left any stone unturned to make preparations for the show, to take place at Mahatma Mandir, a convention centre not very far from Sachivalaya in Gandhinagar. Industrial Extension Bureau, propaganda wing of the state industries department, has printed thousands of folders “welcoming” investors at the “Vibrant Gujarat global business hub”, asking them: “Block your diary for January 11-13, 2013.” Partner countries have been declared – Japan and Canada; and partner organizations are Japan External Trade Organization, US-India Business Council and Australia-India Business Council. A folder, carrying a Modi photograph, quotes him to say: “Gujarat is emerging as a globa…

FDI debate, globalization and Gujarat farmers

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By Rajiv Shah
Globalization always excited me even when I was a student. I never supported it, though there was no particular reason to oppose it either. It was a hot topic especially among student wings of Left parties in Delhi University, with whom I was associated in early 1970s. "Anti-imperialism" was the buzzword among our Left "mentors", and globalization naturally was considered an evil, propped up by the multinational companies (MNCs). At Students' Federation of India (SFI) study circles, taken by those whom we thought were CPI(M)'s future theoreticians - Ved Gupta, Sunit Chopra, Rajendra Prasad, Sudhish Pachauri - we were told how India's "bourgeois-landlord government led by big bourgeoisie" was an ally of imperialism, and its "globalization efforts" undermined India's independence. We were persuaded to believe that India's independent in 1947 was just in namesake and that Indira Gandhi's anti-imperialist rhetor…

Modi's spiritual potion to woo karmayogis

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By Rajiv Shah
It was, vaguely, early November 2007. I sat in the chamber of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's principal secretary, K Kailashnathan, in Block No 1 of Sachivalaya. A just-published book was lying on his table, "Karmayog", authored by Modi. It was actually a collection of Modi's what seemed to many a babu erudite lectures at the annual bureaucratic conclave called Chintan Shibir. I asked Kailashnathan, whom I have always found a very reluctant man, whether I could have the book. The top Modi aide looked at me suspiciously, smiled, and after some bit of hesitation, forwarded the book to me. "No mischief, Rajiv", he remarked. Apparently, he thought, there can't be anything in the book which could trigger controversy during the Gujarat state assembly polls, which were just about a month away. The newsman in me led me to scan it from page to page, trying to find out if there was anything newsworthy.
The book's 5,000 copies were printed…