Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gujarat - Why it is important

Gujarat elections are due soon. While the Indian media has never behaved so excitedly even about the Uttar Pradesh elections (because of you know who), it is silly to be stuck around the cult of Narendra Modi and not pay attention to what the real gist of this election is.This election is truly important. While the media keeps talking about this being the last chance to contain Modi within Gujarat, this election is even more important than Modi's ambitions and Congress' nervousness. Finally there is an election that talks issues and has led people on either side of the pole named Narendra Modi to discuss threadbare the economic surge of Gujarat.

I will not get into numbers and statistics, but the fact remains that while there has been polarization in Gujarat and major environmental degradation (which is now being given attention), Gujarat was written off in the eighties and nineties due to the incessant labour unrest and the consequent flight of capital and business. With an economy whose debt was ballooning, it was no mean feat on the part of Modi to have turned the economy around to the extent that he has, considering the fact that he manages to get such good figures of growth on a big base like Gujarat's. One statistic is telling enough - Gujarat has achieved complete electrification and does not see power cuts except for absolute emergencies or unnatural situations.

This election is important not just because of what Modi stands for, but also for what he is pitching himself as. A manifesto that does not promise freebies is a refreshing change, unlike the list of freebies unleashed by the Congress that can only ruin the economy of the state. It is this vision of the Congress that needs to be challenged. Are we a country so weak that subsidies and freebies are the only thing that can save us? This election is finally talking about a vision for a state, one that can also be translated for the country. 'Cash transfers' and 'targeted subsidies' are fine, but who will tackle the existing white elephants in the room before bringing to life new ones? Food Security is utter nonsense when all that is needed is universalization of PDS and plugging loopholes. Aadhar related cash transfers are absolutely useless if access to banking services just does not penetrate. Moreover, we have to ask if subsidies will help us reduce poverty or push people further down. It was a telling fact that prior to the introduction of MNREGS (India's largest scam) Gujarat had lower poverty rates than Maharashtra, whose program was drawn up on the national stage.

It is this fight of visions that is needed the most, and that is what I see happening through Gujarat. Whatever way the people of Gujarat will vote will be a good indicator of what this country's citizens now want. Whether they want an economy in tatters drawn up by freebies, or whether a robust economy that gives opportunities to all is what they want shall lead the way for this nation. Hence the import of this election is unparalleled in India's politics. Perhaps it will lead to a turnaround that India needs the most. Or perhaps it shall cause us to rot even more. But this election is important - make no mistake about it.

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