EC takes the wind out of the ‘Gujarat model’

By arm-twisting the Election Commission to delay announcement of polling dates in Gujarat, BJP and Modi have confirmed that ‘Gujarat model’ too was an electoral rhetoric

Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

S Khurram Raza

Has the Election Commission of India unwittingly taken the wind out of the tall claims made about the Gujarat model of Governance? By allowing the Gujarat Government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few extra days, possibly to announce fresh projects and make ‘important announcements’ on Monday, October 16 before the Model Code of Conduct kicks in with the announcement, the EC appears to have raised question marks on the much vaunted Gujarat Model.

In a cautious but forthright piece in The Indian Express, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi this morning wrote that the decision has eroded the credibility of the Commission. The scathing headline ‘Error Commission’ said it all as knives are out to question the ‘independence’ of the Commission.

Another fallout of the decision are questions raised about BJP’s governance in Gujarat. Had the Gujarat model been such a spectacular success, why would the state need a few extra days to announce sops ? As the former CEC rightly wonders in his critique, why do politicians seem to come up with popular schemes just ahead of elections?

Before the general election in 2014, both BJP and its prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi made several tall claims. Once in power, he promised to put in ₹15 lakhs in everyone’s bank account. He assured that for every Indian soldier killed on the border, he would ensure that ten heads of enemy soldiers are brought back. He promised that every year 20 million jobs would be created, that the Rupee would get stronger in relation to the US Dollar. He promised to raise the Minimum Support Price of farm produce and held out the assurance that Petroleum prices would come down. Most of the promises were later explained away as being ‘jumlas’ or electoral rhetoric that was not be taken seriously.

But BJP and Modi held out the example of Gujarat as an example of what is possible in the rest of India. The state was painted as a place where water, milk and honey were abundant, the quality of life much better than the rest of the country and so on.

It almost seemed as if ‘Vikas’ or Development had reached a saturation point in the state. Nothing more needed to be done.

But if nothing was left to be done in Gujarat, why the desperation to make fresh announcements ahead of the election?

So, is it finally a tacit admission by the BJP and Modi that the ‘Gujarat model’ was an illusion created for the general election ? That the claims were unfounded and the image of Gujarat actually deceptive ?

Barring 2002, elections to the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat Assemblies were being held simultaneously. In 2002 the Gujarat Assembly was dissolved before its term ended at the behest of the Modi government. And now in 2017 the two states will have polling on separate days because the PM wants to make some last-minute announcements to woo voters in his home state ?

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