Is Ahmedabad the new cricket capital of India now, wonders Tharoor

Not just important cricket matches, but Ahmedabad and Gujarat continue to attract investment and investors, but because it is the home state of the PM is the inference

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor (photo: Getty Images)
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor (photo: Getty Images)

K Raveendran/IPA

The standard definition of crony capitalism is the existence of an economic system characterised by mutually advantageous relationships between business leaders and government officials. Going by this, at least two major decisions this week are India-centric, though with linkages to domestic as well as international.

The International Cricket Council (ICC), over which the Indian Board of Cricket Control (BCCI) has virtual tutelage, thanks to the latter’s clout over the game on account of its status as the body controlling the sport in the world’s biggest cricket playing nation, has selected Ahmedabad as the venue for the inaugural as well as the final matches along with the event’s most sought after match between India and Pakistan.

The decision has prompted punch-master Congress MP Shashi Tharoor to exclaim if Ahmedabad has become India’s national cricket capital. His anguish is understandable as he was expecting his Lok Sabha constituency of Thiruvananthapuram to be awarded at least one core match. The decision has upset many other deserving venues as well, whose fans are up in arms against the arbitrary choice of match venues.

Ahmedabad does have a cricketing tradition, but has been known more recently for certain unseemly controversies. The fourth Test between India and Australia at Ahmedabad saw an acrimonious debate about the nature of its pitch, with the Aussies alleging that the curators preparing two pitches to help the home side against the visitors. But it has the biggest entitlement: it is the cricket capital of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who despite his near-obsession with India’s greatness seems to pride he is first and foremost a Gujarati and then Indian, the knowledge of which has helped the captains of the world’s biggest businesses take the right decision.

Only last week, tech giant Google, of course with its Indian CEO Sundar Pichai, announced in Washington after a meeting with visiting Modi that it will set up its global fintech operation centre at GIFT City in Gujarat. “Today we are announcing the opening of our global fintech operations centre in GIFT City, Gujarat. It will cement India’s fintech leadership, thanks to UPI, and Aadhaar. We are going to build on that foundation and take it globally,” Pichai said. During his visit to India in December last year, Pichai had announced that a part of the India Digitisation Fund (IDF) is increasingly focusing on startups from India and one-fourth amount of $300 million from the fund will be invested in entities that are led by women. Beti bechao, beti padhao has been a ubiquitous Modi slogan.

When India’s first bullet train was announced in collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency, it was obvious that the high-speed train would traverse heart of Gujarat. The project has missed a few deadlines and milestones, causing the cost to nearly double to two lakh crore rupees, but it continues to be a showpiece initiative of the Modi government. Based on cooperation between the Governments of Japan and India, National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) is implementing the high speed train corridor project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

Last year, when oil, gas and metals conglomerate Vedanta Limited, along with its joint-venture partner Taiwan-based multinational contract electronics manufacturer, Foxconn ditched Maharashtra in favour of Gujarat for its $20 billion joint investment, it had created a storm. In August 2015, when the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance was in power in Maharashtra, the state had signed an MoU with Foxconn to set up a $5 billion semiconductor unit at Talegaon in Pune.

That MoU was cancelled in 2020, when MVA was in power, but negotiations were on for setting up of the plant. Apparently, even after the MVA government announced the project would be set up in Maharashtra, Gujarat continued to woo the business, with the latter offering full support, which clinched the deal in its favour.

Other major projects coming up in Modi’s Gujarat include the Japanese Industrial Estate, with an area earmarked only for Japanese companies engaged in engineering, automobile and ancillary units manufacturing. Another Japanese Industrial Zone is being developed at Mandal Becharaji Special Investment Region, which will be home to major auto companies like Suzuki Motor Corp., Honda Motorcycles and Scooter India and Toyota Tsusho India.

Also coming up in Gujarat is India’s largest greenfield industrial smart city, Petroleum, chemicals petrochemicals and investment region (PCPIR) with an investment commitment of over $27 billion for manufacturing and infrastructure developments worth $2.5 billion.

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