Political commentaries are greatly influenced by biases, but changes take place without reaching such pundits
In the last 27 years, Gujarat has seen several stages of events which helped the state break free from the past. Gujarat is now a global village. The people in the state are more aspirational. They want the foundation that has been laid in the last 27 years to help them fulfil their dreams without migrating to any other country. Yet, the political pundits want to look at Gujarat with their Hindutva lens.
Political commentaries are greatly influenced by biases one holds and past perceptions. But changes take place without reaching such pundits and they demand to be taken note of whenever an unbiased analysis is done of the works done in nearly three decades by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This calls for the political pundits to change their glasses and look afresh at Gujarat.
Communal riots were common in Gujarat in the 1970s, 1980s and even later for a few years. The Gujarati society was sharply divided in the binary of Hindu-Muslim. The mafias lorded over in some parts of the state to carry out their unscrupulous activities. Prevalence of violence deprived Gujarat of the economic benefits. The industries made their bases in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka or other states. Gujarat thus earned an image of a state always witnessing communal tension, which made the political pundits to form the perception that the state is a Hindutva laboratory. This needs to be challenged.
Kutch in Gujarat was parched. Saurashtra in Gujarat was parched. Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and others together suffered the pain of water scarcity. The water crisis was not communal. This made people migrate to other states or to the other parts of Gujarat. Neighbouring Rajasthan reeled under severe water crisis. Availability of water is the basic requirement for any economy. Parched areas never support the economy, Bundelkhand of the past in Uttar Pradesh is a clear example.
Millions of people migrated to other states, and with them they took away the labour forces without which no economy can function. Farmers in Gujarat grew one crop in such parched regions. In the last 27 years, farmers in Gujarat are growing a minimum of two crops and even three crops. This benefit has also been shared with the farmers of Rajasthan. The work done in the last 27 years to ensure that no person in Gujarat faces water scarcity has changed the face of the state. Sardar Sarovar Project, which made the Narmada waters available in the erstwhile parched areas, brought happiness on the faces of the people irrespective of caste, creed or religion. That was possible because Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat was busy working with the engineers while the political pundits were busy searching for Hindu-Muslim conflicts in the state. They continued bashing Modi for their biases even while he brought prosperity to the people of the state.
While the political pundits were busy pushing their Hindu laboratory narrative, Modi worked with his politics of economy as a tool to empower the people of Gujarat. The pace of industrialization in the last 27 years in Gujarat has been rapid. Several of the state policies have become templates for the other states to attract investment. The land pool policy is now being followed by several of the states. But this was started by Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat. The single window clearance for the investment proposals was pioneered by Modi. He institutionalised an administrative culture which had no place for red-tapes and no money had to be paid to get clearance of the files, as the message spread that there existed centralised monitoring with the involvement of technology.
Bureaucracy has been transformed to work for improving the ease of doing business in Gujarat. The bureaucrats honed their technical skills and expeditiously executed the vision of Modi. Investment came along and Gujarat prospered. The administration was given freedom from interference of politicians. The law and order situation improved, and the state forgot the years of communal violence. Muslims too reaped the benefits of peace in the state as they poured their full energy to the economic activities. This has enabled even the Muslims now voting for the BJP in some parts of the state.
The BJP in the last 27 years has gained the credibility of the people for its competencies to work to fulfil the aspirations of the people. This work culture in the BJP and administration led by the party in the state capital and the urban municipal corporation and the Gram Panchayat has been institutionalised.
The administration knows that the people are aspirational and they must stay ahead of the time. Thus, even after Modi became Prime minister in 204, the governance model in Gujarat has remained the same. Anandiben Patel, Vijay Rupani and Bhupendra Patel have been Chief Ministers of Gujarat after Modi served the state for two decades. It has been evident that the process-based governance model continues to evolve and scale up in their response to the needs of the people.
Gujarat is leading the way in the adoption of green energy. The state is at the forefront in adoption of solar energy. Villages in Gujarat are opting for roof top solar panels to become self-sufficient in their needs for electricity. The state government has encouraged solar power farming by covering irrigation canals, drains, community buildings, and other assets with solar panels. This is helping Gujarat to promote solar power at a great speed. What is more heartening is that the corporate campuses too have taken the leaf from the Gujarat book of the administration to go for captive solar power plants to become self-sufficient in their electricity needs. Gujarat is an industrialised state. Gujarat is the manufacturing power of India. The success of the democratisation of the usage of solar power in Gujarat is a gift of India to the world and a lesson in governance with actionable examples to fight climate change.
Politics is never stagnant. There should be renewal of the resources. The BJP is a cadre-based party, which is attracting youngsters in a large number. The BJP workers are also aspirational and they want to rise the ladder in the party on the basis of their performance. The BJP has ensured that the young workers in Gujarat keep growing up. The party is providing space to them at every stage. From the local bodies to the legislative Assembly to even becoming ministers in the state, the BJP has shown that the party has addressed the aspirational dreams of the party workers in Gujarat, which again is an example for other parties.
But the politics of development is not sensational. Political pundits are still learning that Modi brought the era of the aspirational democracy in Gujarat and the country. Aspirational democracy in Gujarat overwhelmed identity politics. Divisions on the lines of castes, creeds and religions have become politically irrelevant, because all want to live in peace and partake in the economic journey of Gujarat. The gains of aspirational democracy far outweigh the lure of identity politics, as seen in the qualitative transformation in the lives of the people in the state in about three decades.
(The author is Director, Public Policy Research Centre)