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Gujarat’s new CM must focus on drought and health indices

comment Updated: May 22, 2014 02:41 IST
Hindustan Times

After the grand victory of the BJP and Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha elections, the natural question as to who will carry forward Mr Modi’s legacy in Gujarat has found an answer in Anandiben Patel, who has an excellent working relationship with India’s prime minister.

On the one hand, the task could be daunting in the sense that it is difficult to succeed someone who has built up such a formidable reputation for himself through the good developmental work done over more than 10 years.

But, on the other, there is an advantage also because one can start without having to clean up any of the mess left by one’s predecessor. So it would not be an exaggeration to say that Ms Patel is at a vantage point. And she also has enough time on hand to prove herself because the assembly elections in her state are still about three-and-a-half years away.

What has Ms Patel to do now? First, she must stick to Mr Modi’s motto of ‘maximum governance and minimum government’.

Next, she must continue with the policy of time-bound industrial clearances, for which Mr Modi has won accolades from India Inc. Gujarat clearly has a task ahead in surpassing Maharashtra as the top destination for foreign direct investment (FDI).

Given the race to set up units in Gujarat, over time land for industry may become scarce. With rates in the industrial estates beginning to go up, farmers will start charging more for the fertile land they part with. In that case a shift in emphasis from manufacturing to services may be required to maintain the momentum of the state’s growth. However, in doing this, she has to adhere to the main thrust of the Gujarat model of growth, which has paid the BJP handsome dividends during these elections.

Having said that, there is a fair bit that Gujarat has to catch with up. It has been reported in this paper that Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh gave potable water facilities to more people than Gujarat was able to do between 2001 and 2011.

In this endeavour the new chief minister must pay special attention to Kutch and Saurashtra. Also, the two states were ahead of Gujarat in reducing the infant and maternal mortality rates.

State gross domestic growth grew higher in Tamil Nadu between 2005-06 and 2012-13. But these are relatively easy to tackle and Ms Patel has a responsive official infrastructure to pay attention to it. And, of course, the new chief minister is assured of all support from the Centre.