Gujarat’s other calling card

Sex ratio at birth statistics suggest that the lot of the girl child has improved considerably in Gujarat between 2001 and 2011. Sex ratio at birth statistics suggest that the lot of the girl child has improved considerably in Gujarat between 2001 and 2011.

Whether it is female infanticide or mortality, education or various health indicators, Modi’s Gujarat has done quite well.

India is at the halfway 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 the 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 more than predicting the future of India if Rahul Gandhi was the leader, or even if it were L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj or Rajnath Singh. The reason is simple — with Modi, one has a performance record in Gujarat, a record spanning over 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 lack of a better word, most stupid. Indeed, in no election, in India or elsewhere, has stupidity sunk to such depths. One of the best political leaders in the last century, Bill Clinton, was the governor of a state, Arkansas, whose population is three 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 — that 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 50 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 Sanjaya Baru’s book, The Accidental Prime Minister, that Sonia Gandhi has been just as dictatorial as Indira Gandhi, and perhaps even more so, since she did not (does not) have the constitutional authority to be authoritarian.

So …continued »