A Statue of Unity dedicated to Sardar Vallabhai Patel that is taller than the Statue of Liberty, a new city Dholera that will be six times the size of Shanghai, wi-fi in villages, these were some of the big ideas Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi used to sell his model of development to businessmen and students at KC College on Thursday.
Modi was in the city to attend an interactive session organised by the Indian Merchants Chamber.
In his 75-minute talk, he avoided overt political gesturing but pedalled his state’s growth model as the future hope for a country in deep distress where citizens for the first time were answering their ‘inner voice’ and giving vent to their angst against the government.
So while he did not spell out his prime ministerial ambitions, the theme of his speech was clear: “If 6 crore Gujaratis can do it, so can 125 crore Indians”.
The speech was big on how to take the country to the next millennium.
Think big and focus on the three Ses, skill, scale and speed, if India has to take on China and emerge the winner, he told the audience.
“We are stuck on .1 % growth… this will not do. We need to think big, if we have to showcase our strengths. The world should sit up and take notice. I told the Prime Minister, we should build an Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train. It’s a showcase of our infrastructure. After all, even China doesn’t showcase the entire country, only Shanghai,’’ he said.
Modi dismissed claims by his critics that Gujarat was always a progressive state. He pointed out how, as the chief minister, he transformed adversities into advantages belting out everything from agriculture to power statistics.
“When I became the chief minister for the first time, all kinds of people came to meet me and they all said that if you can’t do anything else, ensure we get power while having dinner. Today, Gujarat is power surplus. In the next two years, we can give out power as charity,’’ he said.
Unlike what he had done in the past, he didn’t run down Maharashtra or hard sell Gujarat as a business destination but he did cock a snook at the state of affairs in Mumbai.
“A recent World Bank report ranked Mumbai 10th as a business-friendly destination, but Ahmedabad was ranked 5th. This didn’t just happen. It takes hard work,’’ he said.
The Prime Minister’s Office also got its share of jibes as Modi ran down a report on Good Governance drafted by a high-powered committee.
“The report listed five conditions of good governance. We have implemented all these conditions to create transparency and institutionalise ideas,’’ he said.
Interestingly, he chose to focus more on his achievements in agriculture -- record growth of 9 per cent contrasted with the nation’s 2-3 per cent growth -- than business and advocated India’s democracy as one of its greatest strengths against China.
For a speech that was so big on ‘I’, Modi claimed he had built a policy- based governance so that even if he was no longer in the state, good governance would continue.