NEW DELHI: The chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to accept the fact that the economy was in the throes of a major crisis while lashing out at the Congress-led UPA government for sending “enforcement agencies” after business houses with investments inGujarat.
“Firstly, the government should stop painting a rosy picture. If the prime minister accepts the reality, he can find an answer. But the problem is that he does not believe in what he is doing. He is not able to take even those decisions made by him to their logical end,” Modi told The Economic Times in a rare interview to a national publication, during the course of which he repeatedly refused to be drawn into discussing widespread speculation on his alleged ambition of leading the Bharatiya Janata Party’s efforts to oust the UPA government in the 2014 general elections.
“I am busy with making things better inGujarat… I am not here on a career agenda,” he said. Modi, 61, who first became chief minister in October 2001, mocked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the top UPA leadership for feeble governance, claiming that foreign governments now preferred to deal directly with state governments such as his. “They (the Centre) don’t want the state government to perform and they place hurdles.
This is naturally making the investor jittery. They (investors) want to work with state governments, but the Centre is playing the obstructionist,” Modi said. “Two former prime ministers ofJapanwere inGujaratto talk about business.” In the recent past, the chief minister, who has been denied aUSvisa for his alleged role in the communal riots of 2002, has often directly taken on the PM and the Congress leadership, stoking speculation that he was keen on being anointed as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Modi’s supposed national ambitions have been in the limelight after his rival Sanjay Joshi was forced to resign from the BJP’s national executive ahead of a meeting in Mumbai. Modi, who had reportedly made Joshi’s exit a pre-condition for attending the Mumbai meeting, subsequently dominated proceedings.
His seeming ascendency, while largely welcomed by the party’s cadres among whom he is wildly popular, has also bared the rifts in the principal opposition party. Senior leader Sushma Swaraj did not attend a rally in Mumbai and party patriarch LK Advani has expressed his discomfiture at the state of affairs. In the conversation with this paper, Modi declined to comment on the infighting, including the sudden appearance of articles critical of him in publications linked to the BJP and RSS.
“You can ask me about it in 10,000 ways, but I will give the same answer – that I am busy with governance inGujarat.” Modi also criticised alleged illtreatment of investors inGujaratby police agencies controlled by the Union government.
“The Centre went to the extent of unleashing enforcement agencies on those who promised investments inGujaratat the Vibrant Gujarat meet. They should stop preaching and do what they are expected to do – govern.”
The remarks by the controversial politician, reviled by many for his alleged complicity in the 2002 communal riots, mark the first time that the BJP leader has gone public with the allegation that industrialists perceived to be close to him were being targeted by investigative agencies such as the CBI and ED. Rumours that this is indeed the case have been widespread for some time.
According to him,Gujaratwas not the only state facing such treatment from the Centre. “Iron ore is available in abundance in Odisha. But the Congress and the government led by it at the Centre are opposing entry of steel companies into the state,” Modi said.
Despite copious praise from industrialists such as Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, the 2002 riots continue to cast a long shadow over Modi’s national ambitions, according to political analysts. Some leaders of the BJP-led NDA, notably Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, have publicly opposed a national role for Modi. His difficulties with theUSmay also cast a pall over Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions.
Earlier this year, a special investigation team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court absolved Modi of allegations of complicity in the riots. Specifically, the SIT said it found no evidence that Modi had asked the police to refrain from taking tough action against rioters. But campaigners on behalf of the victims of the riots, in which over 900 people were killed, say the SIT’s probe was flawed.
In the interview, Modi mocked his critics, referring to them as an “industry” and expressing pride in the fact that no riots had taken place since the ones in 2002.
“Where were these so-called secularists when Indira Gandhi promised the rule of Bible in the North-East and attempted to create a Hindu backlash inJammu and Kashmirduring a general election? I don’t remember any “secularist” even displaying manufactured rage. I must point out that the past 10 years have been the first riot-free decade in the past 400 years. Look at the recorded history of the state from 1736 and you will see riots breaking out at regular intervals. And has anyone even heard of curfew being imposed in any town ofGujaratin recent years?”