I do not think all Gujaratis adore Narendra Modi. I have come across enough even in Gujarat who cannot stand the sight of the man — including some from the BJP who switch off their television sets every time Modi appears.
So there might be several Gujaratis in Bombay as well who might not exactly be fans of the Gujarat chief minister.
Those suggesting that Bombay-based Gujaratis who admire Modi’s performance are free to go back to their native state need to know that the first voices that rose against the massacres of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 were those of Gujaratis living in Bombay.
But then this was Modi that they were dealing with, not LK Advani or the Congress, both of whom sort of apologised for what happened in Ayodhya in 1992 and in New Delhi in 1984 respectively even if it was just lip service to suit the time and the shifting mood of the nation.
Going back in time will also reveal that businessmen from western India, particularly those with interests in Gujarat, had lambasted Modi to his face at a federation meeting soon after. He got back at his critics by simply squeezing their business interests in his state.
Now we all know that bottom lines are more important to business houses than any notions of social justice and communal harmony.
They got the message and soon fell in line. So it was not surprising that some of them began to sing paeans to Modi and keep his ego massaged, a couple of them even thinking he would make a prime minister.
I am sure even Modi heard the hollow ring to their praise and knew he would not have received their endorsements without pressing down on their nerves.
Bombay clearly owes much of its wealth to its Gujaratis. I wonder how many of us know that before 1947 only taxpayers could vote at the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections? These privileged voters then included — apart from the British — Parsis, Jains, Hindu Gujaratis and Bohra Muslims — all wealthy businessmen and all of them were originally from Gujarat.
Many Gujarati businessmen are eyeing Bombay as a better bet given that the Maharashtra government is opening up space as part of its larger infrastructure expansion plan Maharashtrians voting for the BMC before Independence, which brought about universal franchise, could then be counted on the fingers of just one hand.
The call to Gujaratis to leave Bombay and settle in Gujarat for their support to Modi is far off the mark and does not take into account the reality on the ground. But I do not blame Nitesh Rane, son of state industries minister Narayan Rane, for failing to see beneath the simmering surface of what is really happening in Gujarat — most people outside the state have been similarly taken in by the hype.
Far from leaving Bombay and settling in Gujarat, I think Maharashtra should brace itself for an exodus of Gujarati businessmen in the reverse direction — out of Gujarat and into Bombay. When I travelled through Gujarat, I came across scores of businessmen who are sick and tired of Modi’s Gujarat.
The common refrain among them is, “Modi’s Gujarat shines for only the top three – Tatas, Ambanis and Adanis. The atmosphere is not conducive for the rest of us.”
That is because, notwithstanding the hype, electricity is actually scarce or very expensive for other industrialists, water supply always falls short, taxes are high land is unavailable except to crony capitalists and generally there is an atmosphere of mistrust and insecurity lurking beneath the surface in Gujarat.
Many of the businessmen are, thus, considering moving lock stock and barrel to neighbouring Maharashtra.
Some of them had moved to Gujarat from Bombay in the 1980s to escape terrorisation by the trade unions of Datta Samant and the Shiv Sena in the 1970s and 1980s.
Then chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki, sensing an opportunity for his state, had invited these industrialists to set up shop in Gujarat where he offered them a calm and peaceful atmosphere now that both Samant and Bal Thackeray are no more, and Modi is not really a very enthusing prospect, these businessmen are once again eyeing Bombay as a better bet given that the Maharashtra government is already opening up space and opportunity as part of its larger infrastructure expan sion plan for the city.