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Denouncing without alternative

Denouncing without alternative
Arvind Kejriwal was on his mission Gujarat recently, ostensibly to acquaint himself with the reality of development in the state, politically to bust Narendra Modi’s development claims on his home turf. His strategy wasn’t much different from other betes noires of Modi. So he also chose to strike the very foundation of Modi’s formidable edifice of development calling it a big hoax. But strangely, despite simultaneous attacks from different directions, the voters of Gujarat and the rest of India still find Modi’s ode to development more promising than the elegy being chanted in its opposition.

Parliamentary elections are contested in the backdrop of larger national agenda and a fair amount of local issues. But it’s different this time. It’s not being fought on the local and national issues any more. The issue is the persona Modi and his vision for the nation and development. So it seems more like a national referendum on whether or not people want Narendra Modi for the top job and endorse his vision of development. This time BJP has a leader with a strong pan-India appeal. Notwithstanding the stigma levelled on him, his vision of development seems more market friendly to the industry and convincing to the global leaders. Besides, his determination also seems appealing to the middle class whose aspirations and dreams depend on the skilled handling of economy and serious issues facing nation.

, it was the Congress government under Narsimha Rao which in the nineties spearheaded economic liberalisation. But credit went to Narendra Modi government in Gujarat which presented the model of development using Congress’ economic policy a decade later. The left formations having valid ideological reservations about the unrestrained market economy may still be justified in their criticism of Modi’s development agenda. But, how can Congress present a counter-point to development which it envisioned early in the day? Congress seems aggrieved because Modi has hijacked its policies and patented the development model in his name. It failed to capitalize its own policy both at the centre and the states losing the first mover’s advantage.

Communalism vs development have remained the main agenda in Gujarat elections after 2002. Gujarat has successively rejected pseudo-secular politics. No wonder if Modi baiters are tactically avoiding communalism and harping on development issues this time. Doing a reality check of the development claims is not so difficult. But it’s often influenced by political allegiance. To have a neutral view both development statistic and popular perception must be analyzed together. As far as the voters are concerned their opinion negative and positive is based more on perception than statistical data. Therefore, analyzing statistic becomes important for reality check.

Gujarat, having five per cent of India’s population contributed highest GDP to the nation which is 7.61 per cent in 2013. As against that neighboring Maharashtra’s contribution was 7.1 per cent. In the year 2011-2012 despite the decline over previous year the GSDP of Gujarat was 8.5 per cent whereas it was just 4.4 per cent in UP, India’s largest state. As a pleasant surprise Bihar’s performance was rated highest during the same year with 13 per cent GSDP; much ahead of Gujarat! But if this is any reflection of Bihar’s leaping economic performance then how can it justify the demand for special status on the basis of economic backwardness? Gujarat also contributes 25 per cent to the total national export. At the rate of 43 per cent, it’s one of the three states – Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamilnadu having highest rate of urbanisation. The road density in Gujarat at 146 km per lakh of population is higher than the all India average of 126 km per lakh of population. During the year 2010-2011, Gujarat’s per capita income at Rs 75,551 was much higher than the national per capita income Rs 53,331. Don’t they indicate development in Gujarat?
No doubt, in recent years falling Human Development Index including malnutrition among the tribal population of Gujarat, literacy, quality of education, declining sex ratio have been cause of concern.

Rapid industrialisation and unrestrained urbanisation are also variously impacting the socio-economic structure of the state. Critics point out the rising gap between the rich and the poor in recent years. People have sold their land at escalated price but have lost their capital and source of livelihood in areas surrounding big cities of Gujarat. This easy money also has its social cost which the society is paying. Rising aggressive arrogance among the neo-rich is a case in point. In the days to come, Gujarat definitely will have to do a social audit of economic achievements to make it more inclusive and sustainable.

However, the question is, are people ready to go back to the lantern age or endorse the primitive or counterproductive vision of development such as ‘charwaha vidyalaya’ or free distribution of laptops? People have promises of secularism and casteist social justice on the one hand and a visible model of development on the other which doesn’t discriminate on the basis of caste or creed.
The voters in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country realise that development alone is the most secular and inclusive mantra because it creates growth opportunity for all. Inclusive sustainable development alone should be the agenda of elections. Surely, Gujarat can’t be a universal model of development for the entire nation; but it can certainly be an inspiration for all.

The author is an academic and socio-political commentator
Mihir Bholey

Mihir Bholey

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