Buoyancy vs. Vibrancy: Modi's Bubble

A Gujarati friend living in London was chuffed. "I think he's done it, he'll make it," she wrote. Her family could be here, but they are not. And will never. The excuse is "The children were brought up in a western culture, they won't adjust."

So, how globalised is it really? Many like my friend are mere cheerleaders. I avoided writing about it, but that note made me think.

Narendra Modi turned out in good form as a salesman during the recently-concluded Vibrant Gujarat Summit.

When a man hawking his state is trumpeted as hero, he is pushed into a slot. The background noises about Modi as national leader and prime ministerial candidate come from soothsayers, not pragmatists.

Modi has scuttled his chances at being a national leader, forget the candidate for the top job by acting as drumbeater. As he said:


"Once upon a time, Gujarat was the gateway to the Globe from India. Now it is becoming the Global Gateway to India. Gujarat welcomes you through open arms with this event which has grown far beyond the boundaries of Gujarat."

The statement proves just how regional he is. A good indication of a thriving global economy would be if migrants from the state have returned despite doing well abroad and not because of a slack overseas economy that forces them to invest in their roots.

For foreign investment, Gujarat has always had a thriving middle class. Modi has only given it a visible face, a name. He has made the trader his brand - marketing asmita, self respect. Curiously, this version of swadeshi is essentially based on a western model.

Much has been said about big business tycoons and their syrupy odes to him. Let us see what they really mean.


“I am proud to say that RIL is a Gujarati, Indian and a global company. We began from Gujarat and we come back here again and again to invest." - Mukesh Ambani

Indeed, Dhirubhai Ambani started from here. Their major benefactors back in those days were in Delhi. The AGMs of Reliance are held in Mumbai. They've built schools, hospitals in Mumbai. Their showpiece houses are in Mumbai. Their wives' promote cultural activities in Mumbai. They are not investing in Gujarat, but investing in property for their pollution-causing factories there.


"Narendra Bhai has been described in different ways. My personal favourite comes from what his name literally means in Sanskrit - a conjunction of Nara and Indra. Nara means man and Indra means King or leader. Narendra bhai is the lord of men and a king among kings." - Anil Ambani

This was probably the most treacly account, but we are a nation that deifies. Narendrabhai himself dresses up in mythological garbs and it pleases the junta, just as any road show would. Anil Ambani, like his brother, will pick and choose the options in Gujarat. They know they are the real kings, as Forbes keeps telling them.


“Gujarat has made a remarkable progress. We see almost every state embarking on an investors' summit now - a pro-active approach established with a walk the talk approach of the government here." - Adi Godrej

This is essentially playing politics. Investors' summits have often been organised by business organisations. You don't need a political leader for that. Giving Modi credit for it is the sort of palm-greasing industrial houses do before they get their files pushed. Here, it is a preemptive strike.



“There is something about the food in Gujarat that makes Gujaratis not just entrepreneurial but they are remarkably free of the fear of failure. And to me, this freedom from the fear of failure is at the root of entrepreneurship and innovation. In future we will talk not just of China model in India, but Gujarat model in China.” - Anand Mahindra

This is the consolidation of the state as a separate entity. When big industrial houses attend summits in Mumbai, do they reduce such talk to Maharashtrian food or the Marathi characteristics? No. It is redundant to their own aspirations. What Mahindra is in fact conveying is that this spirit was there before Modi and shall be there always.

The China reference was cheeky. China has gone ahead with its economy, but internally continues with its heavy-handed policies. It would be more than happy to clone any model and later make cheap fakes that will probably sell like hot dhoklas in Gujarat itself.


The state is an option like any other. Those investing here are contributing to its image- building much like a wedding family ensures a sturdy and trussed up mare for the groom to ride on to take back his wife.

Ratan Tata spoke about how he first did not invest and then he did, and is now convinced about Gujarat. He forgot to add that he was shunted out of West Bengal where he started his Nano project.

I felt a bit sad when Narendra Modi said in his concluding speech:

"All these people who are greeting us, trying to speak our language, they just want to be part of our economic success."

Foreign diplomats made the right noises and it was to ensure that the huge diaspora in their countries continues to add to the economy from their spice-laden havens in Wembley and New Jersey. Not in Jamnagar and Ahmedabad.

But it does not hurt to look through a bubble and see sudsy rainbows.

© Farzana Versey


  1. Love your jealousy of Modi's success. I think you are secretly in love with Narendra Modi. I bet if your house is searched one will find Narendra Modi's pics all over.

    C'mon! Dont be scared to openly say that you love NaMo!


  2. I don't know a whole lot about Gujarat politics but Modi's image build up as a technocrat reminds me of Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh. He was heavily hyped as a high tech politician and Hyderabad seemed to be doing well with the growth of Bulk Pharmaceuticals, cinema industry and of course IT industry fuelled by outsourcing money. For a while he was beloved by the upper middle class city dwellers and foreign IT types as a progressive forward thinking politician who knew how to take country into the 21st century and beyond. Surprisingly no one dug deep to see what exactly he was doing besides doling out valuable land to his cronies and setting up IT parks and movie studios Hyderabad. We all know where it ended with the loss of elections in 2004 and people complaining that only a small section benefited from his activities. It seemed like people rejected his high tech vision and I remember a lot of my friends were really disappointed. Of course the guy who came afterwards Mr.YSR outdid Chandrababu with all kinds of state schemes and doling out goodies to his cronies and advancing corruption at a scale that was astonishing, no mind boggling for everyone.
    One thing we can be sure of is that politicians will take credit for any kind of growth even if they did not really do anything to contribute to it. It could just be that some favourable circumstances like new technologies, already accumulated capital stock and managerial and technical talent will click together and growth will take off. But these kinds of things don't last too long and then we will have the busts as well. We all know who the businessmen/industrialists will speak highly of, the ones who help them make a lot of money.

  3. Sai:

    Indeed, the Chandrababu Naidu example is apt. But, he was modernising the system of functioning. I don't recall any claims of major development. Of course, it is ultimately about their own gains.

    Gujarat has always been a trading and business hub. Modi has just added varnish to it.

  4. FV,

    QUOTE: "Gujarat has always been a trading and business hub. Modi has just added varnish to it."

    I never saw you writing "Gujarat was always an edgy, riot-prone state. Modi was just unfortunate to be the CM at the time of the largest one of them all"

    Sekulaar double standards? Ah, Perish the thought!
    Let me point out with due respect that such investor meets regularly take place in almost all states of India, with claims of success made by everyone involved. The fact that you felt compelled to specifically bring up the one organised by Gujarat govt (btw, it is an annual feature) shows the following:

    1. Your hatred for Narendra Modi and everything with even a remote Hindu identity is visceral and incorrigible.

    2. There Is Something About Modi! (Apologies to Farelly Brothers. Their movies were far cleaner -not to mention, harmless - than the trigger-happy, bloodthirsty sekulaar discourse!)

    Did I appear deliberately provocative?

  5. F&F:

    If one ignores your disingenuous analogy and reference to your nemesis - secularism - we'd still be left with the fact that Modi claims to have solved the riots problem and is in denial about his responsibility as head of ruling party.

    You seem to see no need for this.

    I am aware of such summits in other States and mentioned it. Those chief ministers do not pat themselves on the back for the money and work others put in.

    And for all your talk about your disapproval of the Gujarat riots, you emphasise the 'Hindu' identity. Perhaps you'd like to read the whole piece instead of just one search word.

    {Did I appear deliberately provocative?}

    No. Not even spontaneously so...


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