Makar Sankranti (January 14) goes by different names in different parts of our country. In Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as Pongal. In Assam, it brings song, dance and joy in the name of Bihu. In Punjab and in several other parts of north India, it comes, a day or two in advance, as Lohri. People gather around ceremonial log-fire to warm themselves up on a cold night, singing Lohri songs and exchanging popcorn, peanuts, crystal sugar and sweets made out of til (sesame seeds). Every year my family has Lohri celebration at home, sharing our joy with friends, office colleagues and security personnel.
Makar Sankranti reminds me of the kite festival in Gujarat, the state which I represent in Parliament. On this day, the deep blue sky in Ahmedabad and other cities and towns of the state becomes a canvas for a vibrant splash of colours as tens of thousands of people climb their rooftops to celebrate the kite festival. Indeed, the International Kite Festival in Gujarat has become a major tourist attraction.
Since 2003, the word ‘Vibrant’ has become associated with Gujarat in yet another manner, enhancing the national and international reputation of the state. Consider the fact that even in the current year of economic slowdown, the two-day Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit 2009, which concluded in Ahmedabad on January 13, attracted promised investments of over Rs. 12 lakh crore. More than 8,500 Memoranda of Understanding were signed between the State government and the intending investors. These have the potential to create over 25 lakh additional employment opportunities. While the last three editions of the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit in 2003, 2005 and 2007 together received promises for investment of over Rs 6.34 lakh crore, the 2009 summit alone had inked MoUs to invest 12 lakh crore.
This is how The Hindu newspaper reported it:
“The Chief Minister’s announcement was greeted with resounding noise of clapping with even foreign delegations and prominent industrialists from the country and abroad giving Mr. Narendra Modi a standing ovation for the achievement by a State in attracting industrial investments at a time when the global economy was facing recession.”
What accounts for Narendrabhai’s success? The answer is simple: he exemplifies the BJP’s commitment to Good Governance, Development and Security.
Gujarat has not only registered the fastest economic growth in the country, but also registered impressive successes in social development. The problem of drinking water, severe and perennial in many parts of the state, has been largely solved. The widely applauded Jyotirgram scheme has succeeded in providing 24×7 electricity supply to all the villages and hamlets in the state. School dropout rate, including in tribal areas, has drastically come down. Gujarat is a leader in slum improvement and urban renewal.
What gives me special satisfaction is that Gujarat has succeeded in brining down political and bureaucratic corruption in a way that is truly a model for other governments.
After the BJP’s success in winning a renewed mandate in the December 2007 Gujarat assembly elections, I had commented as follows:
“The Congress and its pseudo-secular supporters had sought to convert these elections into some kind of a national referendum on ‘communalism vs secularism’. Needless to say, they failed miserably in their plans.
“I consider the outcome of the Gujarat polls significant for another reason. It showed how a leader with integrity, courage and competence could count on people’s support to beat back a personalised campaign of vilification. I cannot think of any other leader in Indian politics in the past sixty years who was as viciously, consistently and persistently maligned, both nationally and internationally, as Modi had been since 2002. Sonia Gandhi even went to the extent of calling him ‘maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death). I am happy that the people of Gujarat have given a fitting reply to the practitioners of this kind of toxic politics.”
It is amusing to find these days some sections of the media hostile to the BJP labouring hard to discern even in the Vibrant Gujarat event evidence of differences in the BJP.
I can only recall what I had said at a New Delhi press conference I had addressed shortly after our splendid victory in the Gujarat Assembly polls.
A lady correspondent had posed me the question. “Don’t you think Narendra Bhai is now becoming larger than the party? My reply to her query was: “It often happens in a family that a younger member records an achievement which no one else has made earlier. This only makes the whole family proud. The family never feels diminished on that account.”