This Sunday morning I was pleasantly surprised to hear Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar finally say what I have been saying for months: the Bihar model of development is far better than the one espoused by Narendra Modi in Gujarat.
Long before the Gujarat elections, I wrote that Kumar's work in Bihar was worth more than just a standing ovation because he has built up his state from scratch; he has cleaned up the law and order situation, included the poorest of the poor and not resorted to killing a single Muslim or any other community to return to power twice. And, I am convinced, he will come back to power again just like Modi did in Gujarat.
But Modi's Gujarat, despite all the hype, is still bleeding. Flying in the face of claims of inclusive growth and defying statistics that show that even minorities are with him (out of fear and lack of any credible option, I might add), there were attacks on Muslims in Chhota Udaipur last week; the trucks of rival Muslim transporters were set on fire and concerted attempts were made to pit tribals against them when the two groups have nothing to fight about. Inclusive? Harrumph!
So Modi's call for putting India before secularism is just a red herring to cover up the fact that the Gujarat CM does not even put Gujaratis above others; otherwise why should one top industry from outside the state get electricity at Rs. 3 per unit when Gujaratis themselves have to shell out Rs. 6.50? Moreover, a large part of electricity supplied to Gujarat by the Centre is sold to other states at more than double the rates when large parts of his own state go without power.
And for all that BJP spokespersons, including Nirmala Sitaraman whose husband, I am told, is part of Modi's think tank, might unquestioningly espouse the Modi cause, why is it that Modi, after losing an appeal and a review petition in the Supreme Court (SC) against the appointment of a lokayukta in his state, is now seeking to file a 'querying' appeal in the SC? Perhaps, he hopes to stall the lokayukta, lest he find evidence of corruption in Modi's clean Gujarat?
It is not my case that Bihar has now become the original paradise that it once was or that everything is going right in that state. In the creation of Mahadalits, I am told, even Dalits have had to suffer in Bihar when their lands were seized by the government to benefit those who are even more deprived than them. And it's not that the state is crime-free. But I believe in Nitish Kumar because I have noted a trend in Bombay which speaks volumes for what might be happening in the land of Nalanda and Mithila. More and more Bihari migrants, also forced to reconsider options by the shenanigans of elements like Raj Thackeray and his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, are choosing to return home - and there are some, my garment exporter friend, who has lost many of her workers, tells me, who are setting up small businesses there - like bindi and bangle making, apart from zari work and embroidery factories. They are choosing not to work for big manufacturers in the metropolises because their own home state now offers them better deals.
It might now just be a trickle but that still tells me that in Nitish's Bihar there is clearly room for the poorer lot - unlike in Gujarat where I have had tens of small and medium Gujarati entrepreneurs tell me that now that Datta Samant and Bal Thackeray who ran troublesome unions are no more, they are thinking of exiting Gujarat and setting up in Bombay because of discriminatory policies in their own home state..
Businessmen from Baroda to Surat, Vapi and Navsari have told me they built up Gujarat after former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki made them an offer to operate in peace as against the violent tactics of the Samant and Sena unions of that time. They were happy until a few years ago but doing business in Gujarat is not easy anymore. "If we can get peace in Maharashtra again, and a good offer of land we are ready to relocate.''
So Modi might one day wake up to find Maharashtra in the lead once again, with Bihar not very far behind.
The fault will be entirely his own.