5th Jan 2015
That Gujarat was transformed during the period when Narendra Modi was CM (2001-2014) has been clear to its citizens, who have beaten back any anti-incumbency feelings to elect and re-elect and again re-elect the Modi government to office. It is his performance in Gujarat which catapulted the state's favourite son into the South Block office room once occupied by Jawaharlal Nehru. The expectation is that Modi will repeat, this time on an all-India scale, the success he has had in placing Gujarat on the growth track, and this despite a hostile central government for the bulk of his term in office, a neglect visible in the indifferent quality of central establishments in that state as compared to those favoured by the UPA. However, another question was also being raised, which is whether Gujarat would continue on its high-growth trajectory even after Narendra Modi exchanged his "HCM" (Honourable CM) title for the more prestigious "HPM" (Honourable PM). The international reaction to the 2015 Vibrant Gujarat summit indicates that across the globe, investors are confident that the Modi magic will endure in the state which has launched his political career, despite the baton being passed to a new Chief Executive, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, who has been a trusted associate of Narendra Modi since his tenure in the state.
Candidate Modi promised the people of India "Minimum Government and Maximum Governance". Certainly it will be an uphill task to ensure that the web of vexatious regulations and redundant laws get replaced by constructs that reflect 21st century needs and values. Sadly, despite having taken office in a free country, those tasked with the superintendence of the nation since 15 August 1947 saw no need to do away with the 19th century architecture of governance put in place by the British colonial authority. The laws and practices of that period reflected the needs of a colonial power intent on draining away initiative and energy from a populace which just decades back had accounted for a full quarter of global output. But because such constructs gave powers to government and to its minions a power not present in any other democracy, both officials as well as their political masters were reluctant to reduce the colonial edifice of rules and administrative minutiae to the proportions and the chemistry suited for the genius of the vibrant people of India, a country with an unbroken civilisational record spanning five millennia. Gujarat is expected to take the lead in transforming the vision of Narendra Modi into reality, by continuing his drive to reduce procedures and replace red tape with a red carpet. Certainly this needs to be among the primary priorities of Chief Minister Patel, the successor to Narendra Modi.
From across the globe, companies and countries are flocking to Gujarat to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat celebrations. Now that Modi is the Prime Minister, he is expected to ensure that the many barriers to state initiative which have been in place since the Nehru years get torn down, so that each state in the Union of India can compete on equal terms with the other. The BJP needs to follow the example of both P. V. Narasimha Rao as well as Atal Bihari Vajpayee,who liberalised the economy. Even in sectors such as retail, rather than place a blanket ban on foreign entities, what is needed is to give to state governments the discretion to decide as to what are the entities they will permit. Whether it be retail or roads or energy or education, the often stifling control of Delhi over state capitals needs to get substantially reduced, so that genuine competition takes place between the states where those that are the best governed get rewarded rather than (as often happens under the present system) get penalised. Prime Minister Modi has promised that Civil Society will have greater weight in the government led by him than the Civil Service, and in a vibrant democracy, this is as it should be. Unless the overall talents and potential of a nation get identified and utilised for the overall good, progress will be less, much less, than what it could be. Gujarat has done well precisely because its people have shown initiative and enterprise, often in a context where such qualities are viewed askance by those in authority. Knowing as he does the value of freedom of action and diligent examination of options before choosing a particular stream, Prime Minister Modi can be expected to deliver on the promise which brought his party to power, which is that India will go the way of Gujarat in the matter of economic development. The Vibrant Gujarat initiative shows that this is a promise that is on the way to being kept. Hopefully, rather than continue looking back at 19th or (more rarely) 20th century models for the framing of policies, other states in India — especially the least developed — will adopt the 21st century vision that is in such abundant display in Gandhinagar.
The state of Gujarat, led by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, has an immense responsibility not merely to the state itself but to the entire nation. This is to demonstrate to the people of India that the systems put in place with such care and concentration by Narendra Modi can endure even after he has moved on to other responsibilities. That the Modi Model of government does not need a Modi at the helm, but can function as effectively with another leader at the helm. The people of Gujarat, the entrepreneurial spirit of the state, and the goodwill and affection which Prime Minister Modi retains for his home state are precious gifts which the new dispensation in Gujarat can use with care to ensure that the magic of Narendra Modi endures even in his absence, just as in future, the 21st century system of governance crafted by Prime Minister Modi for the country will long outlast his firm hand on the wheel. Vibrant Gujarat 2015 is a sign that the promise of continuity will be kept in a state that has become a global model for good economic management.
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