The 2014 General Elections is in full swing. Nearly four-fifth of the nation has voted, indicating its preference for candidates. While the early days of poll campaigns have been marked by debates on issues such as secularism, communalism, discussions are now swinging towards the advocacy of the Gujarat Model of Development for the nation as being canvassed by its proponents.
As is normal in a democracy, there are also opponents to the recommendation of this model of development for the whole nation as they question the credentials and veracity of reports of success of such a model.
Leading the political leaders who criticised the Gujarat Type of Model of Development was the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalitha, claiming Tamil Nadu had a better model of industrial development. Soon enough, the media labelled the issue, ‘Modi vs Lady’ and sought to fan a controversy.
Stalin, son of the DMK leader, M Karunanidhi , leading opposition party leader, added his own bit to the topic by including ‘Daddy’ (referring to his father, Karunanidhi), claiming the DMK regime under his father brought in more development. Congress Vice-President, Rahul Gandhi, in his keenness to counter Modi, inadvertently supported his political rival, Jayalalitha.
Amidst this flurry of pros and cons over the Gujarat model of development, I decided to investigate what it was about the Gujarat model under Modi’s regime that has drawn so much discussion in the public domain and sucked political leaders into a virtual verbal maelstrom.
I visited Gujarat in the third week of April 2014 and had interactions with many people, including some Government officials, political leaders, and the general public. Whatever the official claims of efficacy from the departments of the state government advocating the Gujarat development, one can find visible evidences of growth, improvement in irrigation systems, infrastructure development and e-Governance, uninterrupted 3-phase electricity in all villages, linking of rivers and creating more water bodies. Other states are trying to implement the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) model introduced in Ahmedabad.
In the last 10 years, Official sources claim that Gujarat has laid 5000 kilometres of six-lane roads. After the 2002 riots, Gujarat has not witnessed a single riot and curfew till date, the sources said.
After 2003, Modi has been focusing on good governance, the sources I talked to said, pointing out that the issue of ration cards, driving license, property card, redressal of grievances, getting electricity connection – all get done with consummate ease, without having to pay a single rupee as consideration to any government official or anyone in the public administration machinery.
Empowerment has been effectively delegated to various functionaries. The Chief Minister personally reviews the functioning and the status of public grievances through video conferencing with all Districts and Ministers, every fourth Thursday of the month, I was told.
Modi had set a vision, ‘BIG2020’ to make Gujarat a globally preferred place to live and conduct business. Within five years of the announcement of this vision, the state attracted Rs.6500 billion crore of foreign investment in 687 projects, official figures shared with me claimed. Gujarat is one of these rare states that utilises in entirety, the funds allotted by the Central Government for the state development projects.
Definitely, there are other states which have enough development in their regions to showcase. But in my personal opinion, the main difference between Gujarat and the other states is that Modi has succeeded in making the six crore people of his progressive state to feel they themselves part of the great change That is evidence for you as to why Modi has won the state elections for four consecutive terms and the right to govern the state, as people pinned great hopes on him to change their lives further.
I hope all political parties and panelists maintain a healthy debate on the Development Models that they propagate during the rest of the campaign, corroborating their claims with credible evidence, so that the electorate can make out for themselves what real development is and what is on paper. My interactions with responsible people in Gujarat has pointed to the efficacy of the Gujarat model of development.
By K. Srinivasan