Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Gujarat: Vibrant PM’s global showcase begins even as petty thieves burgle, celebrate in Gandhinagar

By RK Misra*
A new year is a harbinger of hope. Optimism is the flavour of the season; so let’s go along.
Gandhinagar, the state capital of Gujarat, is glowing like the peach-coloured skin of an affluence soaked offspring. One of three man-made cities in India after Chandigarh and Bhubaneswar, it is decked up like never before. Gujarat’s first woman chief minister, Anandiben Patel has done in a few months what Narendra Modi could not, even in 13 years. She has given an absolute makeover to Gandhinagar.
The city has turned spanking new and could easily be mistaken for an American creation. As it stands today purely in terms of civic showmanship, it could do the country proud. How long it can remain this way in the face of our pan-spitting and street littering ways is anybody’s guess. But for the moment let’s luxuriate in likable thoughts.
The reason for this massive effort at makeover is that Gujarat’s capital, Gandhinagar, is hosting the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas, normally held in Delhi on January 7-9 and the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit on January 11-13. January 14 happens to be the kite festival of Uttarayan, and the state would like to use this mega-event week to showcase its cultural-tourism potential to the large number of visiting guests from various parts of the country and abroad.
Besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, vice-president Hamid Ansari and state heads of other countries,30 fortune 500 company CEOs besides 200 others of high global profile are slated to attend. Over 5000 delegates for the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas (PBD) and 10,000 delegates for the Investors’ summit are expected. There is not a single room available in any hotel in the twin cities of Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar, and the State Real Estate builders’ body has been requested to make available 300 luxury flats lying unsold and an agency requisitioned to furnish them.
In all, a hundred chartered planes are expected at the Ahmedabad airport, but there is facility for hardly 30; the other planes will have to go to other airports in Gujarat or in neighbouring states to park. Three thousand luxury cars, the likes of BMWs and Mercedes, are on call for cab duty (daily rentals anywhere between Rs10,000 to Rs 25,000, say media reports) to ferry the top of the tops. Two hundred and fifty new jeeps for escorting convoys of VIPs, over 500 CCTVs on the airport-Gandhinagar road alone, three new helipads, a special PMO at the cost of Rs 6 crore for the PM, Harley Davidson motorcycles for the police… the list goes on and on.
An over 10,000 security contingent is in deployment and this includes representation from all conceivable national security agencies. A high-level meeting with the top brass of the three defence wings was held, and a special control room has been set up to coordinate with all three wings of the armed forces and Coast Guard, according to chief secretary DJ Pandian.
At the past Gujarat Investors’ Summits, Modi reveled with announcement of Rs one lakh crore worth of memorandums of understanding (MoUs), or more, to showcase his success. Now the official version is that there will henceforth be no MoU announcements, as the present seventh edition of the summit is donning the role of a business facilitator for other states as well.
But Uttar Pradesh has already struck a discordant note with its government claiming that chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s posters put up on the occasion in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar are being pulled down! Gujarat government has, meanwhile, let it be known unofficially that over 22,000 MoUs are likely to be signed at the summit.
According to highly reliable sources a sum of Rs 200 crore is being spent to show the best face of Gujarat. Old-time state watchers admit that even during Modi’s tenure so much resource was not splurged on sprucing up the city during previous Vibrant Gujarat Investors’ summits. The simple answer is that, previous summits showcased the state and thereby the state chief minister. Now, the two events are meant to showcase the work of a Prime Minister, and India is too vast and six months too small a timespan for it. Besides, there is hardly anything tangible and concrete to show at the national level. So Modi has to fall back on the past to project his future, and Gujarat must pick up the bill!
As the state pulls out all stops to this end, the run-up is also marked by a strategically-timed RSS conclave in Ahmedabad. A three day RSS conclave from January 2 to 4 attended by its entire top brass, besides over 25,000 activists, has just concluded last Sunday. It was here that Sangh ideologue MG Vaidya projected the not- so-subtle distinction between ‘homecoming’ (ghar vapasi) and religious conversion, terming the first as voluntary and the second as forced. The clear defiant message emanating from the meet was that the voluntary return agenda was age-old and shall continue irrespective of the murmurs.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not make it to the RSS conclave due to his ‘busy’ schedule, his bête noir Sanjay Joshi and sangh sevika Anandiben Patel did attend. This Sangh show of strength in Modi’s backyard with its emphasis on home-coming/religious conversion at a time when he is set to showcase his life’s biggest developmental achievement has great significance with far reaching political implications.
Interestingly, small peepholes sometimes provide big insights. Three small news items in a Sunday newspaper made for interesting reading.
The first item was how a deputy collector in Gujarat with a monthly salary of Rs 46,000 depositing Rs 49,000 every day in the bank account of his wife for three years, and according to his wife he owns properties worth over Rs 200 crore.
The second news item was a detailed account of how a national intelligence operation in the high seas off the Gujarat coast had led to the busting of a possible terror attempt from across the borders and the destruction of the fishing vessel. Some achievement this, but back home is a different story.
The third item was an account of how thieves had celebrated new year by burgling the district court in Gandhinagar and taken time out to sit within and have a celebratory eating programme before leaving.
All this when the city was teaming with cops who had turned Gandhinagar into an impregnable fortress in view of the forthcoming high profile events but could not stop petty thieves from burgling a court! Judge for yourself. Happy New Year folks!
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*Senior Gandhinagar-based journalist

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