Running and Gunning
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.