Column: Gujarat’s other calling card

Apr 19 2014, 02:56 IST
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SummaryWhether it is female infanticide or mortality, education or health indicators, Modi’s Gujarat has done quite well

India is at the half-way stage of Election 2014, and if opinion polls and turnout increases are to be believed, it looks increasingly likely that Narendra Modi will be our next Prime Minister. Why Modi evokes such strong reactions from the Congress and the Left (could it be that they know that their days as political elite are numbered with a challenger like Modi?) is a subject for a later article. The advantage with forecasting what might happen under Modi is much easier than predicting the future of India if Rahul Gandhi was the leader or even LK Advani or Sushma Swaraj or Rajnath Singh. The reason is simple—with Modi, one has a performance record in Gujarat, spanning more than 12 years.

But, and this is the first of many objections, Gujarat is not India. It has only a six crore population; India is 20 times as large. So, what lessons can the

Gujarat experience provide? I have always found this “objection” to Modi the most forced, and for a lack of a better word, the most stupid. Indeed, in no election, either in India or elsewhere, has stupidity sunk to such depths. One of the best political leaders in the last century, Bill Clinton, was governor of a state in the US, Arkansas, whose population was less than 3 million. Quite honestly, the objection to Modi as PM on such nonsensical grounds is not worth any discussion. So, my apologies.

There are many reasonable objections to a candidate’s quest for the highest honour. In the case of Modi, the biggest negative is the fact that a large communal riot took place under his watch, Godhra 2002. Enough has been written on this matter, by scholars, commentators, pundits, politicians and laypersons (including myself) that yet another discourse will have precious little value-add. There are other possible objections to Modi as PM—his leadership style borders on a personality cult, and that he has a tendency to be authoritarian. My own view, as a liberal, is that one should worry about such attributes, but I am rather shocked that my good intellectual friends did not raise such objections, for the last fifty years, or even utter a word about the personality cult around the Gandhis (Indira, Rajiv, Sonia, Rahul, and Priyanka). And regarding authoritarianism, and dictatorial leadership, we now have formal evidence, from Sanjay Baru’s book, The Accidental Prime Minister, that Sonia Gandhi has

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