It is not every day one finds oneself reviewing an unabashed paean of praise, even if the subject is indeed a remarkable achiever — our current prime minister. One who boasts of the biggest parliamentary mandate, and the first clear majority in 30 years.
Amongst the torrent of almost non-stop superlatives from the author, Aroop Datta, there are highlights from the much discussed Gujarat model, an economic formula that is beginning to show signs of being replicated at the Centre despite criticism from certain quarters for its top-down approach.
This first point being mentioned here hasn’t yet begun to happen in the other States, but the broad framework for a modernising of agriculture has indeed been talked about extensively by ‘NaMo’. With 60% or more of Indians living in rural areas, either engaged in agriculture or in the task of providing various services to the rural economy, this 17% odd contributor to the nation’s GDP, must be reformed radically for optimum results.
Here is the statistic from Gujarat under the stewardship of Narendra Modi: “Over 1 million hectares of land came under drip irrigation”. This, during his 13 years at the helm, as contrasted with just 12,000 hectares in the period 1960-2001. This process, optimising the use of water, has transformed Israel, where the technology was first used extensively, that too in the desert. It is particularly relevant when large parts of the country are still rain-dependent.
Land brought under agriculture itself in Gujarat also increased from 106 lakh hectare to 145 lakh hectare. It remains to be seen what will be done nationally now, albeit via the increasingly empowered State administrations themselves.
Electricity supply has always been a favourite topic for NaMo the politician because he clearly sees it as a prime mover of development, along with roads and other infrastructure. Electricity provision was expanded dramatically in the NaMo years, till the entire state of Gujarat now enjoys a very creditable 24×7, profitable, electricity supply, and on a universally paid-for basis.
At the same time, Gujarat’s solar park is Asia’s largest. At the Centre too, Narendra Modi is working very hard, through his dynamic Power Minister Piyush Goyal, to transform the fiscal health of generation/transmission/distribution companies, and supply of electricity throughout the country; just as in Gujarat.
Solar power too has now got Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh as well as Gujarat planning to execute mega solar projects of more than 500 MW capacity each. Others are likely to join the bandwagon as the cost of sun-generated electricity has fallen so that it can be sold at below Rs 5 per unit. Nuclear power too is coming on stream at a faster pace now.
Another major NaMo theme is the working to raise per capita income throughout the country. He has implied on multiple occasions that it is the key to development and prosperity, particularly when applied to ‘where a majority of global population lives’.
During Modi’s time in Gujarat as chief minister, the state had a per capita income of Rs 89,668, second only to that of Maharashtra at Rs 101,314. This, with a population of 60 million people for Gujarat, as compared to 112 million people in Maharashtra, all as per 2012 figures.
Datta has made the format of his book reflective of the considerable ground the prime minster has covered inhis 18 months in office, placing photographs on most of its coffee-table book pages, covering NaMo’s myriad initiatives.
Other economic points that Datta makes are the sharp fall in WPI to its lowest level in 9 years, a reduction in trade deficit, to its lowest in 17 months, and a high level of Forex reserves at $343 .2 billion, a 47% increase for the January-April period in 2015, compared to that of a year before. Datta’s book was published in August 2015.
The many visits abroad made by the prime minister, criticised predictably by the opposition, have nevertheless resulted in a surging of FDI. According to this book, it has grown by 36% year-on-year between April-January 2015.
It is telling that almost any commentary on Modi is framed primarily in terms of economic progress rather than political ideology, despite his early RSS background, and the efforts of the opposition to brand him communal. This naturally augurs well for the country, if Modi in turn strives to make his inclusive and all-embracing economics work for himself and the BJP politically.
His ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ slogan is not only emotive and evocative, a good vote catcher too, but flies in the face of more divisive and majoritarian agendas that elements in his party and the Sangh Parivar may espouse. Also, in an India that is in transition from its socialist past towards a more pragmatic market influenced future, a clash of ideologies rather than an emphasis on Modi-style pragmatism can be deeply counter-productive.
More and more foreign commentators are excited about the economic prospects of India going forward, particularly because of Modi and his obvious sincerity of purpose. This bracketed within the context of a world economy that has slowed considerably, is particularly attractive.
With 3.5 years available to him in this, his first term of office, there is every hope and not a few green shoot indications that the pace of economic reform and dynamism will accelerate to over 8% per annum from the respectable 7.3% GDP growth expected in this fiscal.
Aroop Datta has demonstrated his complete faith in the leadership of Narendra Modi via this adulatory contribution.
Featured image courtesy: http://www.narendramodi.in/