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How Modi behaved 'adversely' towards Gujarat PSU turnaround man

GSFC, Vadodara
By Our Representative
Despite triggering a major turnaround of the top state public sector undertaking, Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals (GSFC), during his stint as GSFC managing-director during 2003-06, ex-IAS bureaucrat Alexander K Luke was given “adverse remarks” in his Annual Confidential Report (ACR), which was written by his minister, Saurabh Patel (energy and petrochemicals), and approved by chief minister Narendra Modi for two years, 2004-05 and 2005-06, when he was with GSFC.
Revealing this in his latest book, “Passports of Gujarat: Hazardous Journeys”, Luke says that the reason for the two adverse CSRs he was given was “lack of respect for the elected representatives of the people and refusal to follow government instructions.”
Giving a glimpse of the turnaround to which he was instrumental, Luke says, the GSFC’s three years’ loss up to 2003 was Rs 680 crore. After he joined in, in 2003-04 the PSU made a profit of Rs 42 crore, followed by Rs 252 crore in 2004-05, and Rs 437 crore in 2005-2006.
The share price of GSFC was Rs 14 in April 2003, which went up to Rs 251 in May 2006 (14 times), as against the peers like Tata Chemicals, whose share price increased from Rs 68 to Rs 275 (four times), Coromandel from Rs 62 to Rs 114 (two times), and of RCF, a Central Government PSU, from Rs 22 to Rs 72, (three times).
Interestingly, in June 2006, during Modi’s visit to the GSFC to inaugurate a new plant, Luke suggests, things had already become abundantly clear” The chief minister described the turnaround he had triggered as “a third model”, without once mentioning him, “except light-heartedly” asking him to “pay back to the state government the financial help given to the PSU.”
Luke comments, listening to Modi, “one would have concluded the turnaround was an act of God or the result of the lavish financial help, close monitoring and guidance from the state government”.
Worse, during the function, the chief minister did not like Luke being presenting an identical memento which was given to Modi by the GSFC union leader for the turnaround. Even before the union leader could hand it over to him, he saw the chief minister angrily get up and leave the stage.
“It was curious behaviour from a leader who has himself been the recipient of such adulation from the public, adulation which he has done nothing to restrain. This was sometime in June 2006, four months before my departure”, comments Luke.
The adverse ACRs, which triggered Luke’s resignation from the IAS in November 2006, two years ahead of his retirement, came, suspects the author, because of several incidents of “petty in nature”.
While its beginning could be traced to Luke’s letter to his IAS colleagues during the 2002 riots to condemn the “bloodbath”, Luke says, the immediate reasons were his disagreement to certain “suggestions” of the chief minister.
Thus, Modi wanted the GSFC to give Rs 10 crore to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and the transfer of an officer who was related to the minister for urban development – both of which Luke rejected.
Giving an account of his resignation, Luke says, he was hurriedly asked to leave GSFC on November 10, even though he was scheduled to hand charge on November 11, with clear indications that if did not do so then disciplinary action would be taken against him.
Pointing to how farcical things bcame, Luke says, on reaching the state capital, Gandhinagar, he was asked to meet the chief minister on November 13.
“When I met him, he said had not expected me to actually be leaving and was surprised at it. He said I ought to stay in Gujarat for the next 5 to 7 years”, Luke says.
Modi even went to the extent of asking him “not to give him an answer right then but to think it over for three days after which we could meet again”.
Yet, Modi signed the resignation file “the same evening, perhaps soon after I left his room.”
And, November 20, early morning, Luke and his wife “drove to the airport and an hour later saw Vadodara receding below.”

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