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Monday, December 31, 2007

Undoubtedly, Mayawati and Modi were two big winners this year

Modi policies cash excellent economics Indo-Asian News Service Sunday, December 30, 2007 (New Delhi)
Narendra Modi's victory has been ascribed to two factors - an unsubtle exploitation of Hindu communal sentiments and an admirable record of economic development. While the first can be described as the standard defining characteristic of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the second reason is new in Indian politics. It is also all the more unusual because the growth has been the result of market-friendly policies, marking a sharp departure from the country's customary, if unrewarding, faith in "socialism".
The Gujarat chief minister, therefore, can be said to have charted a new course with the potential of setting a trend that can be of immense benefit to the country.The difference between his approach and that of the Manmohan Singh government is that the latter has been diffident about the pro-capitalist economic reforms that Singh initiated as the finance minister in 1991. However, both he and his party, the Congress, have been somewhat apologetic about the endeavour, presumably because it went against the party's policy of establishing a "socialistic pattern of society", enunciated in 1955.
Their sense of having done something wrong and even harmful was accentuated by the Congress's 1996 defeat that was ascribed by the "socialists" in the organisation to Singh's pro-rich and pro-business economic reforms.This point of view was strengthened in the Left-oriented political class by the defeat of the Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, who had also tried to break away from the usual public sector- and subsidy-based approach to the economic scene. While the private sector was shunned by this group of politicians because of its profit-oriented attitude, free power for the farmers and a wide range subsidies - whether fertilisers or food grains - were their mantra for electoral success, notwithstanding the well-known resultant wastage.
Even after the Congress returned to power in 2004 and Manmohan Singh picked up the thread of his earlier economic reforms, the Congress still seemed hesitant with one of its ministers, Mani Shankar Aiyar, even saying that if he was a socialist earlier, the reforms had turned him into a Communist. What was more, the high growth rate was constantly criticized for not benefiting a wider section of the people. "High growth, low development" was a typical headline in a Left-leaning newspaper. Modi has turned this view upside down. Not only that, he has shown that a high growth rate - Gujarat grew at the rate of 10.6 percent in the Tenth Plan period - pays electoral dividends. The fear of the "socialists" that since the reforms supposedly make the rich grow richer and the poor poorer and is, therefore, politically disastrous is evidently without basis. Clearly, the people are wiser than the hidebound politicians because they know that a booming economy cannot but create more and more jobs and ultimately be of benefit to all.
Modi's other achievement has been to crack down on corruption, which is inevitable in an economy of "free lunches", where electric supply, for instance, is illegally tapped, and focussing on attracting investment and infrastructure. Not surprisingly, his electoral success has now persuaded several chief ministers to ask the central government to allow them to implement the rules prevalent in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Gujarat. But since these include less stringent labour laws than in the other states, the centre, dependent as it is on the Left, may not agree. But the message has gone through that, notwithstanding the admittedly slow trickling down of benefits, a high growth rate is preferable to a low one.
Even before the Gujarat polls, the politicians were slowly realising, especially after Lalu Yadav's defeat in Bihar, that the neglect of development could cost them dearly and that the provision of 'bijli, sadak and pani' (electricity, roads and drinking water) was essential for success. But preoccupied as they were with their caste and communal calculations, they persisted with their old policies of promising quotas and favouring subsidies.It was in keeping with such a populist approach that the central government initiated the hugely expensive rural employment policy even though it was known that much of the payments would be siphoned off and that few durable assets would be built. While the Left predictably applauded the wasteful employment programme, it also put pressure on the government to put disinvestments on hold and scuttle several other polices relating to pension fund, insurance and labour reforms. It is not impossible that Modi's success will enable the central government to revive the currently stalled process of reforms, considering that it is now obvious that growth is not only economically, but also politically, beneficial.
The Left itself is not unaware of this fact as the conduct of Marxist Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee in West Bengal shows. He has been quite uninhibited in his pursuit of pro-private sector policies although he has committed a few blunders, as over land acquisition in Nandigram, on the way. Even if Modi's anti-minority bias and the reprehensible role of his government in the Gujarat riots of 2002 are to be deplored, his success in driving yet another nail in the coffin of "socialism" and making the political class aware of the fact that capitalist economic growth is better than socialist stagnation are laudable. For this achievement, he deserves at least two cheers.
Home > Edits & Columns > Numbers on Gujarat’s wall Arun Jaitley indian Monday, December 31, 2007 Modi proved that if leaders have credibility they can win again and again.
The past few days witnessed the results of elections to the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assemblies. The Bharatiya Janata Party won convincingly in both states. There was, however, a fundamental difference between them. Himachal witnessed a routine election where the government in power lost on account of anti-incumbency against it. The general practice of the electorate is to vote out an unpopular government. Unhappy people do not repeat in power those who cannot govern well. Globally, more governments in power lose elections than they win them. An opposition party, when it comes to power on the strength of an anti-incumbency, claims credit for its victory. These victories are easier since they require the opposition to merely channelise the discontent against the government. The net aggregate of the discontent is the shift in the popular vote which influences the results.
What is significant is the Gujarat result, because no leader in independent India has been as criticised by a section of the media as much as Narendra Modi. It does little credit to the credibility and influence of the national media since Modi’s credibility in Gujarat is inversely proportionate to the attitude of a section of national media towards him. Modi and Gujarat’s people have made an effort to take the state out of the developments of 2002. Therefore, 2002 continues to be an issue outside Gujarat rather than within. Post-2002, Gujarat has witnessed a concentrated effort at economic development. Economic and political infrastructure has grown. It is one of the foremost states in manufacturing. Its agriculture income, thanks to greater availability of water and power, has grown several times. Its road network has been traditionally good. The challenge of water scarcity and inadequate power has been conscientiously addressed. The 11 per cent GDP growth here has benefited its population, enriched the government and enabled it to spend more on social sector schemes. The scheme to incentivise girl’s education, curtail infant mortality, empower tribals and fishermen have been highly successful. Modi not only implemented the schemes but held conferences of stakeholders attended by several lakhs to explain them their implications.
Gujarat saw in Modi a leader who was scrupulously honest. He was bold and not willing to be cowed down by criticism. His decisiveness and ability to implement decisions was directly contrary to the prime minister’s weak and indecisive approach. His emphasis on security enhanced his acceptability. His charisma was not in the abstract but based on a huge credibility emanating from his integrity, decisiveness, boldness and administrative skills. In a political era marked by anti-incumbency mandates, he took the risk to contest an election on a pro-incumbency platform. Those hoping that he would lose had proclaimed that no CM who had implemented power sector reforms has ever won. Modi converted the ailing Gujarat Electricity Board with a deficit of Rs 2,200 crore into a profit-maker. The power sector discipline enforced by him enabled the board to supply three-phase electricity for much longer durations. This increased farm and industrial incomes and enabled household industry to grow.
The larger message of the Gujarat election to the country is clear. If a leader has credibility, his record is good, his integrity standards are high, he can win and win again. It is this credibility that constituted Modi’s charisma and resulted in a positive vote. Of course, party cadre also deserve their share of credit. The Congress has not won an election in Gujarat since 1985. The BJP has consecutively won five assembly elections in Gujarat. The first, in alliance with Janata Dal, and the next four on its own. It is the strength of the BJP organisation, coupled with Modi’s leadership, that became an unbeatable combination. It’s this that successfully defied the might of the Central government, the combined campaign of the UPA, the sabotage by rebels and the belied hopes of a large section of the media.
An analysis of the Gujarat result reveals that the BJP’s victory margin over the Congress has increased beyond 2002. In 2002, the BJP led by 9.5 per cent votes. The lead this time is 11 per cent. A larger lead has resulted in fewer seats essentially because of the uneven size of the constituencies and the large BJP vote being concentrated on winning seats. In percentage terms, the victory margin in Saurashtra is 9 per cent; north Gujarat 9 per cent, south Gujarat 14 per cent and, surprisingly, in central Gujarat, the BJP has lead the Congress alliance by 10 per cent. Despite the 10 per cent lead in central Gujarat, the BJP got fewer seats than the Congress because of ‘wasted votes’. The margin of victory in BJP seats was very high and the margin of defeat in others, narrow.
Why is it that the national media refused to gauge the public mood and BJP’s 11 per cent lead almost uniformly spread across four regions? This is because of an oppressive environment that a section of the media felt it could create. Fair reporting was considered a journalistic sin since it would report a Modi win and hence the rule was to misreport. This resulted in a bandwagon effect which essentially involved acceptance of every theoretical proposition propounded by BJP rebels, some of whom had become ideological guides for the Congress. A ‘K’ factor was invented. The BJP would be routed in Saurashtra because of the revolt of the Patels, the Kolis and even the farmers. On the ground, no such factors seriously existed. Even if there was a mild slippage of Patel votes it was more than compensated and in fact enhanced by the OBC vote, Kshatriya vote and Modi’s credibility. The Soharabuddin speech was deliberately interpolated to include sentences like “This is what I did — what is wrong with what I did” and “Soharabuddin got what he deserved”.
Even the going rate of illegal satta market was misreported on the front page of a newspaper. I seriously believe the credibility of a section of the national media is at stake. Not merely because Gujarat’s people chose not to be guided by it but because of this deliberate perversity. Media organisations which claim to have its own in-house ombudsmen would surely take note of this.
Psephologists also suffered credibility jolt. The admission of some — that the raw data favoured Modi but factoring in improbables like fear and over reporting landed them in error — raises a fundamental question. Are we being guided by participatory psephologists? A participant in a political process may well want Modi to lose. But can the participant sift the data and reach an anti-Modi conclusion on the basis of these improbables? Being dissatisfied with the results on various opinion and exit polls, I decided to conduct an exit-poll through a professional agency, purely for my party’s understanding. Its conclusions were close to the final results.
If the Himachal and Gujarat results are taken in totality, the big picture could be disturbing for the Congress. It has lost all the major elections in 2007. There is not a single positive of the Central government that the party is able to propagate in the state polls. The personality of the PM or his performance are of no political consequence in the polls. The belief in the invincibility of the Gandhis has taken a beating. There are very few major states that the Congress continues to govern. If it loses state after state, it will affect its aggregate tally in the next Lok Sabha. After all, Lok Sabha polls are a net aggregate of state polls.
As 2007 comes to an end, it has thrown up two political winners in the year. Undoubtedly, Mayawati and Modi were two big winners this year. Both have proved it is your support base with your constituency and people that matters. Both defied the chatterati and worked endlessly in their constituencies. The writer is BJP’s party general-secretary and ran the party’s election campaign in Gujarat

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