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16 April 2013

Why Modi Is Not The Solution

Akshay Marathe and Mayank Gandhi


Raising hope or fear?

The Gujarat growth model, being marketed by Narendra Modi is being seen by the middle class as a solution to all the problems of the nation. We intend to understand its strengths and weaknesses and indicate a constructive alternative model of growth. This article is Part 1 of a three part series on Narendra Modi’s Gujarat model. While it cannot be denied that Gujarat has seen growth in terms of water, electricity and good roads, there are some aspects of growth that need to be analysed.

One of the argument for the Modi growth model is the legitimacy it gets due to 3 consecutive electoral victories. Congress has been ruling India for 60 years, CPM had been ruling WB for over 30 years, Lalu had won 3 terms. We do not subscribe to electoral success begetting good governance.

Historical perspective
Gujarat has seen high growth rates for the last 20 years, even before Modi came into the picture. So the high growth in recent years is a continuation of the sound growth in the past. The Chimanbhai Patel era (1990 to 1995) was one of extremely high investments. Owing to these and subsequent investments, growth rates for the period 1995-2000, were around 8.01 per cent. From 2001 to 2010, that is, under Modi’s leadership, this number has risen to 8.68 - a marginal increase of 0.67 per cent.

Gujaratis have been known to be excellent tradesmen and entrepreneurs for centuries. We concede that a business friendly atmosphere has been continued by Modi, which has resulted in this marginal growth. Fortunately for Gujaratis, there has been good rainfall and almost no drought in recent years. What must be noted though is that Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have also experienced growth at comparable rates. In either period, Gujarat was not at the top (as is being made out by Modi supporters). In 1995-2000, it was at second position, and in the 2000-2010 period it was third after Uttarakhand (11.81 per cent) and Haryana (8.95 per cent). Industry has grown in Orissa and Chhattisgarh at 17.5 and 13.3 per cent respectively during 2005-09, higher than Gujarat's 12.6 per cent. Gujarat ranked sixth among major states in per capita income in 2011, with Rs 63,996, after Haryana (Rs 92,327), Maharashtra (Rs 83,471), Punjab (Rs 67,473), Tamil Nadu (Rs 72,993) and Uttarakhand (Rs 68,292).

So, was the slight acceleration in growth due to Modi’s policies as he claims or could it also have been a result of the completion of the Sardar Sarovar project, and an almost drought-free (except for Saurashtra region) ten years?

Non-inclusive growth
The 2002 riots, which were probably a reaction to the Godhra massacre, have nonetheless put a big blot on Modi’s record. At every opportunity it gets, the Congress uses the riots as its ammunition to label the BJP and Modi as ‘communal.’ The BJP then counters it by telling anyone who would listen that since 2002 there have been no riots in the state. We want to go beyond the communal angle and consider the riots from a purely security-centred perspective. For a moment if we ignore the religion of the Indians who died, a question arises: How can Modi be an ideal leader when he failed so miserably at protecting the lives of over a thousand of his subjects from rogue elements of the society? It is the State’s principal responsibility to ensure peace and protect its citizens - Mr. Modi failed in this Rajdharma (a primary duty of the government to protect all citizens, regardless of their castes or religion).

He is alleged to have encouraged, if not engineered the riots, but so far has been cleared by courts and tribunals. Coincidentally, Headlines Today, a television news channel ran a story on the riots this week. The report shows that the Modi administration neglected warnings and refused to impose a curfew in the city - “Despite the flurry of ground reports and advance warnings, no curfew was imposed in Ahmedabad till noon the next day. The BJP government supported the VHP called bandhs that, as events turned out, proved to be the pretext under which violent mobs were mobilized.” By the time curfew was imposed, the damage had been done.

The bloodshed has created lots of misgivings about the intention of the government in a significant number of the populace. Today, a large chunk of the national electorate, namely OBC (32%), SC (16.2%), ST (8.2%), Muslims (13.4%), Christians (2.3%) - Total (72.1%) of the people tend to look at him with suspicion and  distrust. They may not be willing participants in Modi’s development model as they feel insecure because of his reputation. The development model heavily favours the urban middle class.


Urban and industry bias
In the last 12 years, there has been a shift from focus on rural development towards an urban and industry bias. Land acquisition is rampant in Gujarat (as is the case in other parts of the country as well). One of the authors (Mayank Gandhi) once led a rally in Surat of over 25000 farmers near the industrialized Surat-Hazira belt.Their land had been taken away by the Government to make way for large industries owned by Reliance, Adani, ONGC, Essar etc. The farmers were given a reasonable price for their lands, but the loss of livelihood was much too severe for them. Their cattle suffered because area of grasslands in that region was reduced to less than one-fifth of the original area! So while industry benefited greatly, locals were displaced and unemployed. The smoke spewing, gas guzzling plants have destroyed the entire ecology permanently. Is this the model of development that the nation needs?

Modi has spoken at length about how he convinced the Tatas to open their plant at Sanand in Gujarat, when their West Bengal venture did not work out. He makes a case that the people of Gujarat will benefit by automobile companies setting shop in the state. It is interesting to note that the BJP lost the Sanand seat to the Congress in the 2012 election! Had this industry really benefited locals as Modi claims, would they not have voted in his favour? By providing low interest rates, cheap rentals and waiving stamp duty, the Government did persuade Tata to set up its plant, but was this in the interest of the people? No, it wasn’t. To further add to the problems faced by the locals, the state government policy of ensuring 85 per cent recruitment for locals was also waived for the project. The fact is the people are directly or indirectly paying around Rs 60,000 for each Nano sold by the Tatas - this is a criminal misuse of authority by the Government.

If one analysed the latest Gujarat election result, one could notice that in the rural areas, BJP and Cong won almost equal seats, while in tribal areas, out of 21 seats, 18 were won by Cong and 3 by BJP.

Poverty and malnutrition
While poverty has reduced in the state in general, it has done poorly in this respect when compared to other states. According to the Planning Commission, Gujarat’s rank in poverty alleviation is 11th among a list of 20 major states. In fact, the tribal population (17% of the total) in the state has actually seen an increase in poverty in the last decade. What is worrying is that Gujarat’s under-five mortality rate has stagnated and is far behind that of its peers. Child mortality is significantly higher among girls than boys and that difference hasn’t narrowed over the years. Malnutrition is very severe among Gujarat’s children and women, and the only defence that Modi could come up with was an unfortunate diversion of the issue to the dieting habits of Gujarati women. It is no surprise then that in a recent study by UNDP, Gujarat ranked 8thamong major Indian states in human development and the Planning Commission’s Human Development Index has placed Gujarat as low on the list as 18!

A factoid before we end the first section: The Sardar Sarovar Dam has been one of the key components of Modi’s growth story. During his tenure, the dam was instrumental is reaching water to distant parts of the state. However, the dam was first proposed during the Janata Party Government and work on it was continued by all subsequent governments, including Congress ones.

One conclusion that can be drawn from these facts is that the high growth has apparently benefited only a select segment of the population. This means that Modi’s Gujarat model is far less effective than it is being made out to be and shows that growth’s implicit ‘trickle down’ effect is absent in the Modi regime.

ASPECTS INCONGRUOUS WITH IMAGE


Corruption

Modi is said to be one of those few politicians who do not have assets characteristic of an average Indian politician. When he filed his nomination papers for the Assembly elections of Gujarat in 2012 from Maninagar, he declared the value of his assets to be slightly over 1 crore rupees. With over 30 per cent candidates in that election being crorepatis, Modi was one of the poorer candidates in the fray. It is entirely possible that on a personal level, the Chief Minister is clean. Also, it must be said here that the lower levels of Gujarat’s government machinery, which comes in contact with the common man, is largely non-corrupt. While all this is true, it is also true that the Government of Gujarat has indulged in highly irregular deals with private companies that resulted in windfall profit for them with the state’s population gaining absolutely nothing from it!

The Modi government has been relatively free from allegations of corruption, so the public perception is that he is non-corrupt. The reason corruption scams in the Modi government are not exposed as much is the nature of the Opposition. The Congress opposition cannot raise a voice as the people who have benefited from the corruption are close to the Congress leadership as well.

BJP-Congress bonhomie in corruption

(Note: This information is sourced from the Aam Aadmi Party website, which is based on CAG reports, quoted later in the article.)

Gujarat State petroleum Corporation (GSPC) is an oil and gas exploration company of Gujarat Government. GSPC acquired gas blocks in KG Basin in August 2002. According to government’s own estimates, the gas fields allocated to GSPC were worth $20 billion.
Modi government entered into production sharing agreements with Geo Global and Jubilant Enpro Pvt. Ltd. Modi gave away 10% of participating interest to each of these two companies completely free of cost. In turn, Geo Global was supposed to provide technical assistance. The first question is – how were these two companies identified? According to records, it was not through any competitive bidding. These two companies were arbitrarily chosen and simply given away the participating interests in these gas fields free of cost.

The value of the benefits can be ascertained based on a deal between British Petroleum and Reliance around the same time. The value of this “gift” given by the Modi Government comes out to around Rs 10,000 crores to each of the two companies. What is also important to note is the ownership of these two companies. Geo Global, is owned by a controversial Canadian scientist Jean Paul Roy, on whom the Economic Times had written an article in December last year, in which the paper has raised questions about GSPC, GeoGlobal and Narendra Modi himself.


Jubilant Enpro Pvt. Ltd is owned by Shyam Sunder Bhartia, who is husband of Mrs Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson and Editorial Director of Hindustan Times Group, a pro-Congress media house. Mrs Shobhana Bhartia was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the Congress party. She has been known to be extremely close to the Gandhi family. Is it any wonder the Congress has kept mum about this scam in the Modi Government?

When Arvind Kejriwal, Convener of the Aam Aadmi Party had exposed corruption in Haryana (the Robert Vadra dealings), the Govt entity involved had been quick to respond to allegations (although, their refutations were hardly convincing). The problem with Modi is that he doesn’t even acknowledge his detractors. He treats them as if they do not exist. Not just has his Government not responded to the allegations made by AAP, but he has also claimed in his speeches that ‘there isn’t a single allegation of corruption against the Gujarat Government.’ The arrogance and indifference of an elected representative to valid questions is shocking.

Here is an excerpt of a TOI article on the GSPC corruption issue :


The Comptroller and Auditor General reports for 2009-10 and 2010-11, placed before the Gujarat assembly on the last day of the budget session on Friday, tore into the Narendra Modi government on the issue of corruption by pointing out irregularities causing a cumulative loss of nearly Rs 17,000 crore. The villain of the piece turned out to be state-owned public sector undertaking (PSU), Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), which showed irregularities leading to losses of up to Rs 12,400 crore.
The reports slam the handling of finances by the Gujarat government, saying there were regular unspent "excesses" left in all departments over the last four years, and that there were "last minute fund releases and issuance of re-appropriation/surrender orders at the fag end, particularly on the last day of the year".
Gujarat Lokayukta

What makes Modi just-another-politician is his Government’s Lokayukta Act. The Assembly passed the Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013, which was criticised by all sections of the media and all anti-corruption activists as a weak and ineffective piece of legislation. The Act has certain provisions, which are not just ineffective, but they also encourage corruption:

  • The new law empowers the Modi government to choose its own Lokayukta to inquire against the chief minister and his cabinet. This violates the basic principle of natural justice that no man can choose a judge in his own case.
  • The annual report of the Lokayukta will be laid before the legislative assembly, but shall not be open to debate in the House.
  • The State government has the power to exclude complaints against certain classes of functionaries. That means that by the notification, the chief minister or cabinet can be excluded from the purview of the Lokayukta.
While BJP supported Anna Hazare's demand for a Jan Lokpal Law in 2011, the Modi Government has been preventing appointment of a Lokayukta in the state for the last ten years!

Dictatorial style of functioning

There are three cases that come to mind when one thinks of Modi’s regime : Haren Pandya, Sanjiv Bhatt and Sanjay Joshi. Haren Pandya, Home Minister of Gujarat during the 2002 riots and Sanjiv Bhatt, an IPS officer, were the two ‘moles’ in Modi’s team who claimed to know exactly what happened at a meeting at Modi’s residence during the 2002 riots. Today, Haren Pandya is dead and Sanjiv Bhatt is being hounded by the Gujarat Government for a case of custodial death that took place in 1990. Sanjay Joshi was the RSS functionary in Gujarat who rivalled Modi’s popularity and clout, back in the 1990s. Today, he has been forced to resign from the National Executive of the BJP and has been sidelined completely.


The fate of these three individuals brings out Modi’s ruthless attitude towards rivals and opposition. The TOI article quoted above also had these lines in it:

With all but four Congress MLAs suspended from the House, there could be no debate on the damning CAG reports. As soon as the house began functioning on Friday, MLAs Rajendrasinh Parmar, Paranjayadityasinhji Parmar, Jodhaji Thakore and Amit Chavda sought discussion on CAG report, which the speaker Ganpar Vasava disallowed.
The quartet rushed to the well carrying banners on CAG. They were suspended, quite predictably, and escorted out by the security staff.

Sanjiv Bhatt, IPS officer

BJP MPs keep entering the well of the Parliament to protest the UPA’s disgusting corruption scams. When Congress MLAs do it in the Gujarat Assembly, they are suspended. Not only is this a clear example of double standards, but it is also a sample of Modi’s dictatorial style of functioning. Opposition of any kind is not allowed to survive for long in Modi’s Gujarat. In many ways, he does remind one of the Emergency period Indira Gandhi. In this day and age, it is impossible to overturn democracy as brazenly as Indira Gandhi did in the 1970s, but does Modi have those tendencies? Absolutely.

On the one hand, in Karnataka, Modi talks of the Congress giving Assembly election tickets to criminals and on the other, he welcomes gun-toting MP from Gujarat, Vitthal Radadiya with open arms. How is he any different from the average Indian politician, who says one thing and does another?

On this note, we end Part 2 of our series on the Modi growth model. In the next and final part, we will talk about Modi’s branding campaigns and the complete centralisation of decision-making.

Disclaimer: We have used the Sanjiv Bhatt example only to illustrate how Modi vindictively targets anyone who tries to oppose him. We do not vouch for his statements and nor do we claim he is honest. In fact, recently the Gujarat riots case SIT has called Bhatt a manipulator and not a witness.

NOT THE SOLUTION
Finally on the Modi myth, we would like to make some points why Modi is not THE Solution for India. We believe that AAP is a much better solution for the country. Some of the major values that we believe in:

Electoral System:
All sensible people understand that Electoral system is the source of bad governance and corruption. Every candidate necessarily has to spend  crores of black money for getting elected. For that, they need to gather illegal funds. These funds have to collected / made by compulsorily indulging in corruption and hand-in-glove relationship with all arms of government like bureaucracy, judiciary, media and other vested interest groups  like contractors, industrialists and hoarders etc. So, it is virtually impossible to be completely honest and survive in politics with the present electoral system. To gather large votes, criminals are nurtured and caste and religion based politics is indulged in. This electoral system needs to change.

Have you seen Modi talk or behave differently? Doesn't he put candidates based on caste and religion? Don't  BJP candidates in Gujarat spend black money in large quantities? Did Modi use gundas and criminals during the elections? Hasnt a known goon called Radadiya taken in the party recently. So, how can we expect anything drastically different?

Decentralization:
Today, once someone gets elected, he forgets his voters and takes all guidance and orders from his party and its high command. Fortunately, BJP has lesser high command culture than Congress. We believe that a bottom-up process is much better in a country of the size of 121 crore people. Gandhiji used to talk about power to the people, which we believe in. Decisions should be taken at the lowest level. Decisions about village should be taken at gram sabha level, about local urban levels at mohalla level, about talukas at their level etc. This is our concept of Swaraj or decentralized governance.

Modi and 5 of his senior ministers have centralized all power with themselves. Most of the decisions go right up. Can we think of a Gandhi-like decentralized people oriented democracy under Modi?

Lokpal:
A strong anti-corruption law is necessary at the National and state level to apprehend and punish corrupt people called Lokpal with provisions that would deter corrupt practices.

Gujarat was forced to have a Lok ayukta by the SC. And the Gujarat Lokayukta is a complete farce, with all controls vested with the government. Can we expect Modi to make strong anti-corruption laws if he becomes PM? Absolutely no chance.

Humility, decency :
We believe that some of the qualities of a leader should be decisiveness coupled with humility, decency and good human values.

Gujarat spends 550 crores a year on branding Modi with 3 change of clothes-a-day and different poses. An arrogance, vengefulness and running-away-from-uncomfortable debates has characterised his behaviour. While he might be decisive, so was Indira Gandhi. And, we know what a disaster that was for the nation.

Status Quo:
Status quo in which 40 crore Indians sleep hungry is not acceptable. We need a "total revolution" with systemic changes with judicial, governance, administrative and political reforms.

Modi is more-of-the-same. Gujarat is growing, though slower than before. The same systems, the same opaqueness, the same arrogance of the ruler is what is indicated.

My case, is that if we want the same system, the same governance model that has messed up this nation, then one can choose between Congress and BJP and Modi could be your choice.
I want the India of my dreams. I do not wish to choose the lesser evil. I do not want evil, ruling me. India can wait no more!

1 comment:

Sanket said...

I believe HDI is the single best indicator of the performance of a region.How much has the HDI of Gujarat improved during Modi's rule and how does it compare with the HDI increase in India, as a whole.

While people highlight Modi's electoral victories, they forget that even the Congress-NCP combine has won three consecutive victories in Maharashtra and each time the number of seats won by the combine has increased (which is unlike the case with Modi). But no one praises the Cong-NCP combine for governance.

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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.