Narendra Modi is back in the news. Coincidentally, just last week i was in Gujarat and became acutely aware of how much emotion one chief minister can generate. The youth wing of GCCI, an industry body of Gujarat, had invited me to a felicitation function in Ahmedabad. I have always felt the dynamism of Gujarat’s the various industry bodies, which run some wonderful youth initiatives such as career fairs, business plan competitions, mentoring programmes and entrepreneurship guidance cells. It was a wonderful opportunity to visit Ahmedabad, a city that inspires me and to which i owe much.
The function was simple enough. A few speakers spoke about Gujarat’s development. The economic numbers were fantastic. The development model seems to be working at the grassroots level too. While India’s agriculture GDP growth has averaged 2.5% in the last 10 years (with the government targeting 4%), Gujarat’s agriculture grew at a staggering 9.8%.
The entire programme focused on one agenda — development. Industrialists, politicians and IAS officials didn’t talk about anything else. It was refreshing to see a part of India functioning well.
But there was someone at the function, whose presence was enough to change the colour of the event, at least in the eyes of those outside Gujarat. Chief minister Narendra Modi, who gave a passionate speech about Gujarat’s growth, acknowledged that anyone who was seen with him would be vilified by certain sections of society. He warned that anyone who praises him would be criticized.
When my turn came to speak, i tried to remain neutral. I spoke about the glimpse of youth power in Anna Hazare’s movement and how this power needed to be directed at positive goals, such as excellence, good values and entrepreneurship. If Gujarat was doing well, would its chief minister consider getting involved at the national level as we have 27 other states that could benefit from the Gujarat formula, i asked using the analogy that playing for an IPL team is different from playing for the national team. One could have asked as much of an any well-performing CM.
But there is no judgment as yet. And it is very hard to pass judgment in such a situation, especially when it involves several incidents and provocation from both sides. Just like it was extremely hard to prove Congress’ involvement in the 1984 Sikh riots. Even if the state were involved, the fact is a lot of the populace was complicit and that guilt will never go away by making a villain of one person. That doesn’t, however, mean we don’t investigate properly. We must push for justice, and have enough faith in the process to believe the right decision will be made. Even the CM has no choice but to accept that.
However, there is a lot more to Gujarat, the Gujarati people and their CM than Godhra. It is one of the few Indian cultures that celebrates entrepreneurship. That is the need of the hour for the entire nation. It is a state whose now proven development model, if replicated, can dramatically change the country’s fortunes. To ignore that would be harmful for the nation. Many rights do not cover up a wrong. But should a wrong be constantly used to cover up many rights?
Let’s face it, whether we are pro or anti-Modi, we all want the same thing. We want development and we don’t want any more religious riots. As long as both sides of the debate understand that, we won’t be as hostile to each other and, maybe arrive at something better than say, an extreme position. In fact, it isn’t about a particular personality or CM; maybe seeing the good and the bad together will help us arrive at the kind of CM we actually want. For this, we must never stop listening to each other and accept that good and bad often co-exist. Often, the challenge is not about choosing between good or bad but extracting the maximum good, while keeping the bad at bay. Let’s learn what is good from Gujarat, while continuing our quest for justice for the bad that happened.