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Modi's "core governance": Influential Gujarat scribes close to power structure ignore human rights, social sector

By Our Representative
A book eulogizing Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s “core governance” was launched in Ahmedabad amidst key speakers, while praising the Modi model, refusing to recall once how the man who ruled the state for the last 13 years has handled Gujarat riots or “fake” encounters. The speakers consisted of right-wing columnist Gunwant Shah, Times of India group’s Navgujarat Samay editor Ajay Umath, and author Uday Mahurkar, editor, India Today, Ahmedabad. They seemed not keen to recall why the riots continued for three long months in 2002, what all Modi did (or did not do) to “stop” them, and how he has confronted – effectively or ineffectively – the post-riots impact on Gujarat society.
While introducing the book – “Centrestage: Inside the Narendra Modi Model of Governance” – Mahurkar said he had three sittings with Modi, who further put him across to a few bureaucrats for more facts, and later he was in touch with ministers like Saurabh Patel, who has looked after industry and energy portfolios. Neither he nor those who commented on his book said there was any other source of information other than the official one. Among issues sought to be introduced at the book launch included the huge Modi claim of 24 hour power in villages, “successes” in tourism, and e-governance.
It seemed, human development index, social sector or human rights – towards socially and economically backward sections – were not part of any governance exercise. Mahurkar insisted, he was “impressed” by Modi’s critique of votebank politics. Modi’s ideal, the view at the book ceremony launch was, was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. And what was so special about Sardar Patel? Mahurkar was quite specific: “His ability to tell Muslims straight what they should do”! There was applause from the audience.
His book, said Mahurkar, was of an insider, who knew Modi since 1986, when he was “quite impressed” during the very first meeting. Among the examples of good governance he gave included how the Gujarat CM would return phone calls from him in eight out of 10 occasions when he would leave a message. During “interactions” with Modi, he would often “advise” Gujarat CM on issues he thought he should give a feedback. “I once told Modi that he shouldn’t be too preoccupied with his publicity through hoardings. His reply was: If something good was being done by publicizing his image, what’s wrong?” Mahurkar was impressed.
Among other “governance” issues he was impressed included Modi’s effort to take Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations to different districts. “I am sure, as Prime Minister of India, he would take these celebrations to other states, say, in Mizoram. This would unite the nation”, he predicted. Mahurkar said, this was perhaps his 116th book on Modi, though adding, this was the first book on Modi about his style of governance. Others quoted Modi as saying that already 150 books on Modi were released over the last six or eight months.
Columnist Shah, in his “keynote” address, while praising Modi, found in him something of a Morarji Desai, who was allegedly a great follower of Sardar Patel. He recalled how once Desai castigated some villagers who had come to see him in a small town in Maharashtra. “He first refused to meet them, told them when he saw them as he walking out, that they had wasted time and petrol to reach up to him, telling them that they had better meet his secretary instead. The next day, I learnt, their grievance was addressed. This is very similar to Modi”, he said.
Shah, who all along kept showering praises on Modi, seemed keen to tell the audience that he was a free man and if he found something lacking in Modi he wouldn’t mind criticizing the Gujarat CM in future. A keen observer at the book launch told Counteview, “Shah’s parting kick was a reference from one of the Ramayana versions, in which Dashrath was described a drunkard, a womanizer and a gambler, albeit a great administrator." Someone who knew Shah well claimed the “reference wasn’t to Modi” and it was being “misunderstood by the audience.”
In his invitation for the book launch, Mahurkar said, “The book has a forward by eminent economist Dr Jagdish Bhagwati, preface by Dr Bakul Dholakia, former IIM-A director, and introduction Dr Jagdish Sheth, known business marketing expert in the US.” He added, “Amongst those who have appreciated the book are economist Bibek Debroy, spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, political analyst Swapan Dasgupta and Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur.” Those present on the occasion were several of Modi’s babus and three ministers, Saurabh Patel, Nitin Patel and Bhupendrasinh Chudasma.

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