India is watching a repeat of the ‘real Gujarat Model', suggest Modi's record as CM
Re-writing of Gujarat’s history into pre-Modi and post-Modi period is just one part of the Gujarat Model, says Urvish Kothari who has been listing the features on social media
In August 2007, the Gujarat Government released advertisements to announce plan to plant 1.85 crore trees to commemorate 150 years of the 1857 war of independence. Veeranjali Vans would come up in 18,324 villages, 141 towns and in seven mega cities, it proclaimed.
Where are the trees now, asks Urvish Kothari, his words laced with irony. Narendra Modi, says the senior journalist, was always known for making grand announcements and organising grand events. He cites the four day ‘Chintan Shivir’ that the then Gujarat chief minister had called in the Rann of Kutch to fix 50 golden targets for the state. This was in December 2009. But who remembers the resolves, he wonders aloud.
Kothari, who has been posting old media reports, headlines and advertisements from Gujarat on social media explains, “I am trying to place Modi and the media in context.”
The misgovernance and the cover up by the media in Gujarat is exactly what is happening in India, he adds. When prominent Gujarati newspaper Gujarat Samachar was going hammer and tongs at Modi before the 2002 by-election, a new newspaper, Gujarat Satya Samachar, was launched with similar layout, font and style of the masthead as the older newspaper. Now we find ‘Daily Guardian’ and ‘The New Guardian’ emerge to counter The Guardian, he adds with a chuckle. Referring to new TV channels and Namo TV, he recalls a channel ‘Vande Gujarat’ launched to promote the then CM.
“Everything you see now is a repeat. I have a lots of newspaper clippings which I would collect when there was no Internet search engines, Google or Wikipedia,” says the former journalist over the phone.
Someday he had thought of writing a book on Modi’s “Real Gujarat Model” but Kothari adds that he no longer wants to waste his time on the project. “To us (who have seen the Gujarat model) nothing is new. We have seen this film before which Delhi and India are now watching.”
Gujarati newspapers, he points out, were never totally supine. The perception that they were completely pliant but have become rebellious now is an oversimplification. Part of Modi’s Gujarat Model is media management and perception balancing.
The foremost feature of the model was vanity, he says. “This person does not care about any ideology. RSS, BJP, nationalism, Hindutva, communalism etc are all tools to project his own cult image. Before he became chief minister, government advertisements would have a passport size photograph of the CM. But Modi spent public money lavishly to plaster the state with placards and hoardings with him posing in fancy clothes.”
Huge events were organised to create a spectacle for distribution of appointment orders to ‘Vidya Sahayak’, something which would be delivered by postmen earlier. Under the scheme teachers were appointed on contract for five years with Rs. 3,500 per month as ‘salary’. It was exploitative and disastrous for children’s education, Kothari recalls.
Part of the model was to project himself as the “saviour of the Hindus”. Every few days there would be sensational news of somebody trying to kill him and there would be encounter killings of the alleged assassins. Once those encounter specialists were put in jail, the threats to Modi stopped. Initially his speeches were openly communal but he started polishing his speech because he had to expand his base.
That’s when the third feature of Gujarat model- ‘Modinomics’- emerged, points out Kothari. While the term meant everything to everyone, Gujarat, he recalls, was always a highly industrialised state and entrepreneurial. But experts were employed to create the impression that it was all due to Modinomics.
Re-writing of Gujarat’s history into pre-Modi and post-Modi period is another part of the Gujarat Model that has been extended to the national level. “They do not remember the Vajpayee era anymore. The narrative now is that the whole country was living in darkness but Modi came and we saw light at the end of the tunnel,” he laughs.
People of Gujarat saw through his theatrics and antics but tolerated him because of their innate hatred for Muslims. Big talk and unkept promises litter the ‘Gujarat Model’. Kothari’s posts bear him out.