The coastal state of Gujarat in Western India, famous for being the birthplace of Mahatma Ghandi, is home to 50million Indians or 5% of the country’s population of 1billion people.
On 7th October 2001, the then 51 year old Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi was sworn in as Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat. 3 things are important to note about the time when Mr Modi became Chief Minister.
In 2000 Gujarat was in a recession and the economy shrank by 5%. In January 2001, 10 months before Mr Modi took office; a devastating earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale struck the state killing 20,000 people and destroying nearly 400,000 homes. In March 2002, 6 months after Mr Modi took office, Gujarat erupted in communal riots which claimed 1,000 lives. Most of the victims were members of the minority Muslim community in Gujarat. Mr Modi is Hindu.
The above points to the fact that the situation Mr Modi inherited as Chief Minister was by no means an easy one. So what’s he done with his inheritance since? He’s now in his 3rd term in office by the way.
Gujarat’s economy is currently growing at an 11% clip per annum. India as a whole is growing at 9% per annum. Gujarat accounts for 16% of India’s industrial production and 22% of the country’s exports. While 85% of India’s villages have access to electricity, in Gujarat the percentage is 99%. Asia’s largest solar park is being built in Gujarat. It will generate 500MW when completed. By 2015, Mr Modi expects Gujarat to generate 10,000MW of electricity from wind, solar and tidal power.
Every 2 years, Gujarat hosts the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. At the most recent one held in January 2011, 1,400 delegates from 101 countries were in attendance. By the time the summit was over, about 8,000 memorandums of understanding had been signed for investments to the tune of $450bn to be poured into Gujarat in the coming years. When TATA was looking for where to site the manufacturing plant for the world’s cheapest car, the TATA Nano, it took just 3 days to find a spot in Gujarat. Royal Dutch Shell and Total have opened LNG plants in Gujarat in the time that Mr Modi has been in office while companies such as DuPont, General Motors and Hitachi have built factories or invested in the state. Hitachi Nuclear, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of nuclear reactors, is building a nuclear power plant in the state.
One of the biggest testimonies of what Mr Modi has achieved in Gujarat comes from the Canadian firm, Bombardier. In 2007 Bombardier won a contract to build and supply subway cars to the Delhi Metro and it needed a site in India where it could build the cars before delivering them to Delhi. Within 18 months of signing the contract, it had manufactured its first car at the plant in built in Gujarat (about 900km from Delhi). Those who are familiar with the bureaucracy and corruption in India and of course the famous licence raj would know that this was no mean feat indeed. According to Rajeev Gyoti, the Managing Director of Bombardier in India, this was a world record for Bombardier worldwide.
To reduce corruption, he has simply moved a lot of the state’s activities online and manages its affairs like a CEO. By the way, did I mention that Mr Modi is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is the national opposition party in India? He even has time to build a statue in Gujarat in memory of Sardar Patel, the ‘Iron Man’ of India who fought the British for Independence, which will be twice the height of the statue of liberty when completed….if completed given the spat it has generated with the ruling Congress Party.
Ok Mr Modi is not perfect despite everything I have written above. The fallout of those riots in 2002 have continued to haunt him ever since. There were accusations that he tolerated and perhaps even encouraged the attacks on Muslims. In his 2009 re-election, he won without the Muslim vote (Gujarat is about 80% Hindu). In February this year, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Supreme Court of India released its report on the investigations into Mr Modi’s conduct during the riots. Here’s an excerpt below
In spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims… the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. His [Mr Modi’s] implied justification of the killings of innocent members of the minority community, read together with an absence of a strong condemnation of the violence… suggest a partisan stance at a critical juncture. He [Mr Modi] also showed a discriminatory attitude by not visiting riot-affected areas in Ahmedabad where a large number of Muslims were killed
The report went on to clear Mr Modi of any actions that ‘justify further action under the law’ but this has been his cross to carry since he became Chief Minister. The feelings against him from Muslims remain so strong that when in January a prominent Muslim cleric Maulana Vastanvi dared to state the obvious that Muslims were prospering under Mr Modi, a fierce backlash erupted and he was forced to resign as the Vice Chancellor of the Islamic Seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband. The message is simple; Muslims are not allowed to say anything good about Mr Modi no matter how spectacularly he performs.
What does this tell us as Nigerians about leadership? The obvious lesson is that perfect leaders are a myth. As long as politicians and leaders are drawn from the pool of available human beings, they will always come with flaws.
But what we can at least do is to choose leaders who can walk and chew gum at the same time. Setbacks or inherited difficulties are never a good enough excuse; leaders should be able to tackle the problems they face with energy and fearlessness. Even when mistakes have been made, they need not be fatal. The goal of delivering security, economic development and prosperity to the people is one that will never change for any leader.
When we go to elect a President on April 9th, it’s important to remember that we are not choosing leaders to do just one thing….the President must be able to multitask in the job. While keeping a lid on corruption the President will need to see to the small matter of the economy at the same time.
We will vote on April 9th based on what we want to see in April 2015 when the next vote comes around….ergo, we will do well not to focus totally just on our present situation but on where we want to be in 4 years’ time. We are going to be handing the next President of Nigeria a bagful of lemons. We need to make sure the person is ready to turn them into lemonade on our behalf.
I am voting for Nuhu Ribadu and Fola Adeola for all of the above reasons. I am not interested in a perfect President. I want people who will take on a difficult job and apply all their energy to it.