Run­ning and Gun­ning

India Today - - LEISURE -

Meet In­dia’s most ad­mired and most feared politi­cian: Naren­dra Modi, chief min­is­ter of Gu­jarat. The state of Gu­jarat, to Ma­ha­rash­tra’s north and west, con­stantly reminds its more fa­mous neigh­bor of what is pos­si­ble in a well­run state that lacks an ef­fec­tive po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion. In fact, if In­dia were gov­erned by GDP monothe­ism, Naren­dra Modi would be party sec­re­tary Un­der his guid­ance, Gu­jarat has been In­dia’s fastest grow­ing state. As a re­sult, he is by far the most pop­u­lar politi­cian from his BJP party. Modi com­bines the prag­matic and ef­fi­cient spirit of Gu­jarat’s en­trepreneurs with charis­matic and po­ten­tially de­struc­tive, di­vi­sive, and bel­li­cose Hindu na­tion­al­ism. That mix has real global im­pli­ca­tions. Be­fore vis­it­ing Gu­jarat, I had heard about Modi—from all sides—all across In­dia. “In­dia’s most ef­fec­tive pub­lic of­fi­cial.” “If given five years, he would trans­form In­dia’s econ­omy.” Just as im­por­tant, he was also de­scribed with the strong­est con­dem­na­tion.“He can­not be for­given for the ri­ots.”“Gu­jarat bor­ders on a cult of per­son­al­ity.” As I have learned, there is al­most no way to start a con­ver­sa­tion about Modi with­out an­ger­ing some­one in In­dia. I spent ninety min­utes with Modi at his chief min­is­ter’s res­i­dence in the cap­i­tal, Gand­hi­na­gar. In per­son, he is a pol­icy man—in­tro­verted and pre­cise but also pas­sion­ate about the most tech­ni­cal of sub­jects. On a wide range of is­sues, his Gu­jarat is push­ing, not fol­low­ing, New Delhi and In­dia. That is cer­tainly the case in eco­nomic growth, where much of Gu­jarat’s de­vel­op­ment has come from man­u­fac­tur­ing. In Modi’s words,“In Gu­jarat, we are good at mak­ing things.” In the last decade, man­u­fac­tur­ing nearly tripled in Gu­jarat, jump­ing from about $10 bil­lion in 2003 to $29 bil­lion in 2009.

*** How­ever, in the so­cial realm, Modi’s ef­forts on be­half of Gu­jarat’s poor­est have not al­ways been as suc­cess­ful. De­spite ef­forts to im­prove ru­ral ed­u­ca­tion, roads and con­nec­tiv­ity, sev­eral in­dexes of hu­man de­vel­op­ment have fallen on his watch. Gu­jarat’s poor­est cit­i­zens have fallen be­hind far more back­ward states when it comes to ru­ral em­ploy­ment as well as child hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion. Fur­ther­more, in Gu­jarat, three out of ten girls still can­not read or write.

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