OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.

As the focus shifts to Gujarat which is due for assembly polls later this year, we have been treated to a series of news stories by the mainstream media on how BJP Chief Minister Narendra Modi is being challenged by the dissidents. While most stories focused on how it means trouble for him there was not much in the media on the inside angle to this dissidence. In an interesting piece Aditi Phadnis in the Business Standard writes on what platform Mr. Modi will likely go to polls.

Some significant observations by Ms Phadnis explaining the factors behind the dissidence

In the last one month alone, FIRs for stealing power have been filed by the Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) against 10 persons in Surat and four in Mehsana, most of them industrialists. The GEB unearthed 578 cases of power theft worth Rs 2.4 crore in July this year. It is filing cases merrily. Over the years, in part because of this crackdown, aggregate technical and commercial losses in Surat are down to 8 per cent. They are 30 per cent in Delhi.

Ms Phadnis also goes onto highlight another angle to the dissidence which is keeping at bay pressure groups from influencing Governance

The fact is that the VHP used to traditionally play the role of facilitator in Gujarat, serving as an interface between the government and industry. Modi knew these tactics only too well and let the VHP know its services were not needed any more. Modi has not spared the tender mercies of the RSS either. Relief work in the Gujarat floods last year was not entrusted to RSS cadres. Instead activists of an NGO, the Swadhyay Parivar, were given the relief materials.

as well as insulating law enforcement from political considerations

During a rath yatra in Bhavnagar last year, the district administration did not allow a procession to proceed with the weapons of Ram and Hanuman. Among those who sat in protest against the government move were well-known RSS supporters Haribhai Kordaliya, former BJP OBC cell chairman, and former state BJP chief Rajendrasinh Rana. The yatra could proceed only after they had sat on dharna for four hours.

Ms Phadnis poses the question with all this on what platform could Mr. Modi run – Development ?

Even those who didn’t go there know Bhuj was levelled after the earthquake in 2001. Go to Bhuj now. New roads, a new town, new houses

Earlier this month, Modi laid the foundations of a finance city, a technology park and an integrated township in Gandhinagar. IL&FS signedseveral memoranda with investors like Kotak Mahindra (committed to developing 300 acres of land), Chest Core (to design 2 million square feet space), Punj Lloyd (set to design 1 million square feet built-up space), and Fairwood Associates (to deal with 1 million square foot area). This follows commitments worth Rs 660,000 crore in January 2007 at the Vibrant Gujarat Investors’ summit.

All hype, claim rebels. Some of it, possibly, but surely not all of it?

Ms Phadnis closes her piece saying the Nation is watching, surely Offstumped is watching on how liberal an economic agenda will be part of Mr. Modi’s platform.

Will it be more of the same old tired, retired BJP rhetoric or will it be a bold new path combining a liberal economic agenda, sound governance with National Interest.

The Modi government has shown some signs of heading in that direction with its record in the last month by pushing for Police Reforms as per the Supreme Court directive to all states, creating value out of waste, private participation in public health education, abolition of Octroi Tax, starting evening courts to reduce the backlog as well as the first full e-court in Ahmedabad. simplifying land acquisition for non agricultural purposes.

Offstumped Bottomline: At a time when the mainstream media has spent more time demanding implementing the recommendations of the Sreekrishna Commission Report as justice for riot affected, it is no surprise why neighboring Gujarat’s measures towards Police Reforms and speedy Justice have received hardly any mainstream media attention. Instead all we see are sweeping generalizations about Gujarat in the media, today’s op-ed piece by Barkha Dutt in the Hindustan Times is a good example.

The spotlight will clearly be on Mr. Modi in the days to come.

Will he persist with his economic agenda and governance as the center piece of his campaign or will he succumb to the temptation of emotive politics  ?

Offstumped will be watching



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