INDIA’S business leaders are joining ranks behind Narendra Modi, the controversial and egocentric chief minister of Gujarat and a leading light of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in advance of India’s next general election.
Their support was evident as the chairmen of some of the country’s biggest companies, led by Ratan Tata of the giant Tata group, lined up as speakers at the opening and closing sessions of last weekend’s “Vibrant Gujarat” event. Though none of the businessmen openly backed Mr Modi’s political ambitions (the only speaker who did was a regional politician from Russia), the implication was clear……………For my full article “Narendra Modi – Feeling vibrant” go to The Economist’s Banyan Asia blog, click here econ.st/WKbEK8
IN ADDITION……….Other states, including West Bengal this week, have followed Gujarat’s example since it’s first Vibrant conference in 2008, but none has had anything anywhere near as large and international, nor with such big names. Declarations of investment intentions past, present and future included Rs34,000 crore ($6bn) from Mr Tata and Rs100,000 crore ($18bn) from Mukesh Ambani.
The government claimed some astronomic – and mostly uncheckable – results at the end of the event: investment intentions for 17,719 projects including 12,886 in small and medium size businesses promising 370,000 jobs; 10.6m people visiting the trade show; 58,000 delegates in 127 seminars at the conference, including 2,100 delegates from 121 countries who struck 2,670 “strategic partnership intentions”.
There are arguments about how far Gujarat’s economic growth of around 9%, and social indicators such as reduction in poverty, compare with better states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, but those and many other states do not have Gujarat’s efficient and largely corruption-free regime.
Since becoming chief minister since 2001, Modi has built on Gujarat’s long record as a leading industrial state, and on its entrepreneurial skills that for decades have produced successes ranging from the Ambanis to big companies in Africa and corner shops in the UK.
He has beaten the rest of India by linking virtually all the state’s 18,000 villages with metalled roads, regular electricity supplies (with industry subsidising small farmers by paying more), and internet connections, and has a big current drive on solar energy and wi-fi broadband networks. There is substantial land available ready for industry, which avoids land acquisition problems and delays of many other states and has also developed highways and ports.
Such a record impresses investors, despite the fact that, as a Time magazine (above) headline put it last March, Modi is India’s “most loved and loathed politician” . Investors are drawn by Gujarat’s continuity and execution of policy while being exasperated with the national government’s unstable reform agenda and poor record of implementing policies, and by many other states mixed record and rampant corruption.