[Photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s myth of ‘Gujarat Model’. Photographer: Faisal Khan/AA]
When Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister of India in May 2014, it was on the basis of his supposedly ‘excellent’ record as Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat for more than a dozen years previously. His party, publicists and even Modi himself claimed that Gujarat had seen unprecedented development and peace under his rule and it was this ‘Gujarat model’ that he would replicate all over the country. The electorate believed the myth and gave him their votes, but the last 18 months have proven that the development model was just a mirage.
So what was the ‘Gujarat model’ that Modi touted every time he spoke for over a year in the run-up to the elections? While the public was made to believe that the ‘Gujarat Model’ was all about economic development, the real ‘Gujarat Model’ that Modi spoke of was far sinister. It was how he orchestrated an anti-Muslim pogrom following the deaths of 69 Hindus in a burning compartment of a train at Godhra station, and polarised Gujarat’s Hindus and Muslims forever.
Gujarat has traditionally been one of the most developed of India’s 29 states, second only to Maharashtra which has the commercial city of Mumbai as its capital. Though smaller than some of the other states of India, Gujarat has been far ahead in infrastructure, industry and business than others because of the entrepreneurial nature of Gujaratis. Hard working and thrifty, Gujaratis – both Hindu and Muslim – are inherent businessmen, willing to go to the four corners of the world to make money. The richest Indian today, Mukesh Ambani, is a Gujarati.
Economic statistics show that the Annual Average Growth Rate (AAGR) of the State Domestic Product of Gujarat was 4.34 per cent during the two decades between 1960-80, while India’s AAGR was only 3.3 per cent. During the decade of 1980-1990 Gujarat’s AAGR shot up to 14.97 per cent and in 1990-2000 it was 12.77 per cent, whereas during the same two decades India’s AAGR stood at 5.5 per cent – showing that Gujarat was far ahead the rest of the country.
Modi took over as Chief Minister of Gujarat in October 2001 and between then and 2011 the state’s AAGR plummeted to 9.82 per cent, while the rest of India’s AAGR had creeped up to 7.5 per cent, hence many economists claim that Gujarat did not actually develop under Modi’s chief ministership.
Gujarat’s highest annual growth rate was 40.18 per cent during 1988-89, when it was ruled by the Congress and Amarsinh Chaudhari was the Chief Minister. Even the track records of other non-BJP chief ministers like Chimanbhai Patel who achieved 34.33 per cent growth in 1992-93, and Madhavsinh Solanki who managed AGR of 30.6 per cent in 1983-84, have been better than Modi’s. During Modi’s reign in Gujarat the highest growth rate he could achieve was 14.77 per cent in 2003-4.
If we are to believe Modi’s election campaign then he had turned Gujarat into a heaven on earth where every citizen lived a perfect life, but the reality was very different. Here are some basic indicators during that period which prove the lie.
– More than 5000 Farmers committed suicide in the last 10 Years of Modi’s rule.
– 400,000 farmers do not have electricity connections in Gujarat, while Modi tells people that every village in Gujarat has electricity.
– 67% of rural households in Gujarat have no access to toilets. Members of more than 65% households defecate in the open.
– Gujarat is among the worst in the country in rural education. Gujarat ranks 12th in literacy among the states in India.
– Infant mortality is high in Gujarat, which ranks 11th countrywide in the rate of decline of infant mortality.
– One mother in three in Gujarat struggles with acute malnutrition.
– Gujarat has nearly 420,000 child workers, one of the highest in India.
– More than 10,000,000 people in Gujarat live Below the Poverty Line.
Whereas Modi’s real ‘Gujarat Model’ was put in place in February 2002 when nearly 3,000 (official figure is only 750) Muslims – men, women and children – were massacred in the most brutal fashion by mobs, aided and abetted by the State Government. Among those killed were three British Muslims who had gone to Gujarat on holiday. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were made homeless and forced to live in refugee camps for months, too scared to return to their homes.
There was widespread destruction of property with 241 mosques, 272 Muslim shrines, 19 Hindu temples and 3 churches destroyed or damaged. The three days of unchecked violence in the whole of Gujarat resulted in 100,000 homes, 1,100 hotels, 15,000 businesses, 3,000 handcarts and 5,000 vehicles – all belonging to Muslims – destroyed.
Modi was accused by many for, at worst, planning and directing the massacres and at best, allowing it to happen under his watch. The wife of a former Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafferi, who was killed in his own home with 69 others from the same housing society, has filed a case holding Modi personally responsible for his death. Zakia Jafferi saw her husband make frantic phone calls to the police and Modi when mobs were attacking his home and he refused to send help.
While Modi supporters have claimed since his election as PM that he has been acquitted in all the cases against him for the massacres, this is a lie. There are still a number of cases pending in the courts against him.
Gujarat was always considered by the Hindu right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of which Modi has been a full-time working member since his childhood, its laboratory for trying out its policies of sectarianism and religious polarisation. Modi’s colleague in the RSS, Ashok Singhal, who was then President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, another of its affiliated bodies, let the cat out of the bag when he said that the “violence in Gujarat was a successful experiment which would be repeated nationwide.”