Modi Needs To Put Gujarats Development Back On Rails

Ahmedabad: | Updated: Dec 23 2002, 05:30am hrs
With the verdict on the toughest battle of the ballot going in favour of the ruling Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat, all eyes are now on what exactly Mr Modi will achieve in his second successive term as the chief minister.

With 128 of the total 181 seats contested going the BJP way, with the second runner up, the Congress, virtually routed with 49 seats despite the no-holds barred Modi-bashing that it had indulged in ever since the post-Godhra violence, it is clear that for the people of the state, Mr Modi is their undisputed leader for the next five years at least.

What is worrying Mr Modis detractors even within his party is the fact that with the spectacular performance in Gujarat, Mr Modi has been catapulted to the league of a national leader. Even normally, Modi is an arrogant person who doesnt take kindly to opposition or criticism of any kind even within his organisational setup. Look what he did to former state home minister Haren Pandya, says a senior state BJP leader.

It may be recalled that Mr Modi had forced Mr Pandya to bow out of the electoral race in the runup to the election. A churlish Mr Modi, seething from the humiliation meted out to him in February this year when Mr Pandya refused to vacate his seat for him (he was seeking to legitimise his post of CM by contesting elections), refused to give Mr Pandya a ticket this time.

What party workers are worried about is that with a thumping victory under his belt, Mr Modi is likely to ride roughshod over everyone else. That even the central leadership is worried about this aspect is evident from the fact that deputy prime minister LK Advani has publicly asked Modi to accept his victory with humility and not arrogance, said a worried office-bearer.

Equally worrisome is the fact that almost everyone, both within and outside Gujarat, is attributing the BJP win to the Hindutva wave and not on account of the BJPs performance on the development front.

Statistics show that the BJPs performance on the economic front has been lacklustre at best. This is evident from the fact that the states overall economy grew by just 2.3 per cent from 1995-2000 (the BJP came to power in the state from 1995) against a healthy 12 per cent through the early 1990s.

To compound its woes, state borrowings shot up 15 times in the past 10 years with the annual debt of an average Gujarati going up from Rs 4,634 in 1999-2000 to Rs 7,522 in 2001-02. Though Gujarat is still among the top five states in terms of attracting investment, with the total number of projects announced doubling over the past seven years from Rs 84,700 crore to Rs 168,500 crore in 2001-02, the rate of implementation of these projects has gone down from a healthy 66 per cent in 1993-94 to less than 50 per cent in 2001-02. Even on the development index, the states record is nothing to be proud of, with water scarcity, illiteracy and female foeticide posing serious problems.

But Modi loyalists are quick to point out that he had hardly had any time at the helm of the state to make a tangible difference.

Moreover, when he took over the reins of the state in Oct last, his brief was clear: revive the political fortunes of the BJP which were on a downswing then, said a newly-elected BJP MLA. Now that he has been given a second chance, and that too with no political uncertainty looming on the horizon, hell focus on developing the state, he added.

That Mr Modi is an admirer of the US model of development (he visits that country frequently as he has close friends among the substantially large non-resident Gujarati population) is no secret. Whenever he comes back, he always comments on the development there and has often expressed the desire to bring such development to Gujarat too, says a friend of Mr Modi.

Even on the political front, the people of Gujarat are hoping that not only will Mr Modi take steps to bridge the communal divide between the alienated Muslims and the Hindus but also put the state back on the road to development and prosperity once again.