The stage is being preparedfor the crucial Gujarat elections in December 2017. For the Modi establishment, this is the home state of the much touted Gujarat model. Not only has the BJP been in power in the state uninterruptedly for the last two decades, it has successfully used it as the springboard to win power at the Centre and across the country. This is why the December 2017 Gujarat elections will not only be a test for two decades of Modi’s Gujarat model, but it will also set the tone for the series of Assembly elections scheduled for 2018 and, of course, the 2019 LokSabha elections.
For thirteen of the twenty years that the BJP has now been in power in Gujarat, it was NarendraModi who ran the show with Amit Shah as his closest lieutenant and together they built a paradigm of statecraft that has come to be known as the Gujarat model. There are few parallels in a parliamentary democracy of the Gujarat genocide. The way the post-Godhra genocide was orchestrated with total complicity of the state and the audacity with which it was defended in the face of worldwide condemnation as a matter of pride for Gujarat indicated quite early on what statecraft meant to NarendraModi.
And once Modi managed to retain power in the post-genocide 2002 elections, what ensued was a veritable reign of ruthless terror and murky intrigue complete with a string of fake encounters and political assassinations including that of Home Minister Haren Pandya in March 2003. It took tremendous courage and sacrifice on the part of the genocide survivors and human rights campaigners to bring a few culprits including former minister Maya Kodnani to a degree of justice. The arrival of Modi at the Centre coupled with the promotion of Amit Shah as the President of the BJP has however made the battle for justice all themore difficult, while unleashing the violence tested in Gujarat’s ‘laboratory of Hindu Rashtra’ across the country.
One major factor that has all along lent strength and legitimacy to the Gujarat model despite such wanton violation of human rights has been the vocal backing it got from corporate India. Even as Narendra Modi was refused visas, many MNCs and almost the entire spectrum of Indian monopoly houses rooted for him. The corporate clamour for making Modi the PM became the regular refrain of the annual Vibrant Gujarat summits. It is also striking to note that the Gujarat model created its own corporate entity in the form of the Adani group which made it big almost exclusively by grabbing post-earthquake reconstruction funds and contracts in Modi’s Gujarat. No wonder, Modi had the Adani fleet of jets at his disposal for his 2014 campaign and landed famously from an Adani airliner on his first visit to Delhi after his victory in the 2014 campaign.
Despite this fabled power of the Gujarat model, citadel Gujarat has lately been facing growing challenges from within. Faced with the powerful people’s resistance in the wake of the Una assault on Dalits and the massive agitation of the Patidar youth, the BJP has had to replace Modi’s successor Anandiben Patel after holding office for only two years. The agitations however have not stopped – Gujarat has since been rocked by protesting farmers and angry traders. Indeed, Surat became the veritable capital of post-GST traders’ protests in the country. The desperate BJP campaign to buy out Congress MLAs during the recent Rajya Sabha elections from Gujarat and now Modi’s road show with the Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and his birthday celebration over the Sardar Sarovar Project, all point to the underlying nervousness of the BJP top brass about the state of affairs in Gujarat.
After three years of Modi rule at the Centre and the emergence of the BJP as the ruling party in an unprecedentedly large number of Indian states, there is now a growing realisation across the country that the Modi rule is turning out to be a huge disaster for the economy and for any notion of rule-based governance. The absurdly high prices of petrol and diesel (when international prices are at their lowest) are pinching the people daily in every corner of the country. After bearing with the short-term pain of demonetization, the country is now reeling under its medium- and long-term impact with jobs vanishing and almost the entire economy showing signs of a major across-the-board slowdown. Despite loud cries of ‘Make in India’ manufacturing is steadily declining and having voted for the BJP on the promise of loan waiver, farmers in BJP-ruled states are only getting printed copies of the PM’s smiling face certifying loan remission worth a few paise!
From Gujarat and Maharashtra to Assam and Bihar, from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to UP and Haryana, the entire country is paying a heavy price for the disastrous policies and politics of the BJP. The time has come to hold the rulers accountable for this disaster. In September, university students have given their verdict against the fascist offensive of the BJP and ABVP in a number of major campuses. Peasants and workers are getting ready for big agitations in November when Parliament will meet for its winter session. Let this spirit of resistance resonate in the forthcoming elections to the Gujarat Assembly. The myth of the Gujarat model had fetched BJP a lot of votes in 2014 across the country. With the people now having seen enough of the reality to distinguish it from the myth, it should be payback time for the designers and directors of Gujarat model who have now subjected the whole country to an unmitigated reign of corporate plunder, communal aggression and autocratic governance.