What is the Gujarat Model? This question has many dimensions, especially after Narendra Modi, now Prime Minister of India, first assumed the office of then Chief Minister of Gujarat and scripted this model from scratch.
Before delving into the Gujarat Model, a more basic question needs to be answered first. What is a model and what do we understand from it?
What is a Model?
First, a model should be something which should inspire others to emulate it. Second, the model should be explainable and describable in tangible action points. Third, the model should be replicable. Fourth, the model should be holistic and all-encompassing and not limited to a particular niche. Fifth, the model first developed, should be institutionalised so that it outlasts the conceptualiser.
Analysed from this prism, the Gujarat Model fulfils all the criteria for it to be actually described as a model.
Gujarat Fulfils the Criteria
The Gujarat Model has inspired other State Governments to emulate it. It has been replicated in varying degrees in various States.
The Gujarat Model was holistic as it covered all the activities of the State such as industrial, agricultural, services, human development indices. The Gujarat Model has sustained even after Narendra Modi demitted office as CM. Finally, the Gujarat Model had tangible actionable points that even became a national blueprint for PM Narendra Modi.
Holistic Approach of Gujarat Model
Vibrant Gujarat, which became one of the most visible markers of the Gujarat Model, facilitates industry to invest in Gujarat. The ‘Ease of Business’ concept that Gujarat first mainstreamed in the Indian discourse was in many ways a direct outcome of the Vibrant summits.
With 20 years of successful holistic development, it would not be an exaggeration to assert that the Gujarat Model is the first post-Independence Model of Governance that was Made in India, by Indians and for Indians
However, Gujarat Model is not just about Vibrant Gujarat summit which takes place once every two years and that too for a few days. Krishi Mahotsav is organised every year and is a one-month affair. The entire Government machinery moves from one district to another, interacting with farmers, educating them on latest technology, seeds and appropriate use of fertilisers. In a sense, the lab moves to the field—the Krishi Raths mobilise scientists who directly reach the villages and come face-to-face with farmers.
The result—during the tenure of Narendra Modi as Chief Minister, Gujarat was the only State which consistently recorded double digit State GDP growth rates as well as double digit agricultural growth rate.
Firstly, Van Mahotsav focussed on tree plantation and preservation of the environment. Secondly, Kanya Kelavani and Shala Praveshhotsav focussed on enrollment at primary level, especially among girls. Thirdly Gunotsav focused on improving learning outcomes. Fourthly, Sujalam Suflam Yojana, the nationally awarded scheme, was the centrepiece of the water revolution in the State.
Fifthly, the Jyotigram Yojana became a national model of how to provide assured power round the clock to households, industry and agriculture.
Before Narendra Modi arrived on the scene, Gujarat was primarily considered a trading State. In just over a decade, the Gujarat Model established it as a manufacturing and agricultural miracle State.
Tourism Gets a Huge Push
Tourism developed as an industry during the years when Modi was the CM. The service industry came up in the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City and beyond. Mission Mangalam succeeded in empowering women entrepreneurs and Sabarmati Riverfront and State of Unity gave aspirational infrastructure and iconic landmark concepts.
When Modi first became Chief Minister, one of the first things he realised is that development in Gujarat is skewed along the two roads that passed through Gujarat— essentially two National Highways that connected to major metros
The rehabilitation of the earthquake-hit Bhuj region was an inspiring tale as it not only provided disaster management but also development post disaster and malnutrition that afflicted children of Gujarat for decades.
Rules Prevail Over Discretion
The Vibrant Gujarat Summit is now in its 10th edition. Lakhs of crores of MoUs and investments have materialised from the previous nine editions. And yet, there is not even one story in these 20-odd years of any corruption.
Bureaucratic red tapes were cut. What was genuinely applicable or desirable for one entity was made policy so that it becomes applicable to all. Web of approvals were dissolved and single window clearances were created.
The industrial activities in Gujarat made it a manufacturing State and created a national template for replication.
Use of technology in simplifying complex layers of governance, in reaching out to people, in ensuring ‘Ease of Living’, are undoubtedly due to the personal touch of Narendra Modi on the Gujarat Model. His personal fascination with use of technology became an institutional model.
Today, we see a scaling up of the same processes at the national level—from the use of online grievance redressal system to participative governance model and from DBT to UPI. The validity of the Gujarat Model is in the very fact that it has been replicated, with great success, in the use of technology, at national scale.
Success Story of Jan Bhagidari
A speech that Narendra Modi delivered in October 2007, at an annual summit of a leading English Newspaper based in New Delh, is instructive and educative on the Jan Bhagidari concept that he first conceptualised in Gujarat.
Jan Bhagidari involves people in building a mass movement towards the development paradigm. Once people feel consulted and involved in the decision-making process, their stake in ensuring that same decision gets implemented also increases manifold. The results of this simple concept were transformative. The Narmada Dam project, conceptualised in the 1950s, was completed only after Modi became CM. The waters of the river reached dry regions of the State and in turn they became agricultural regions.
Jan Bhagidari converted Government programmes into festivals like Rann Utsav, Nadi Utsav, Handicrafts Utsav, Vikas Utsav and Khadi Utsav. Of course, the biggest of them all—Krishi Mahotsav transformed the landscape of the entire State.
Sabka Saath and Sabka Vikas
Sabka Saath and Sabka Vikas became a national motto post 2014. But its seeds were laid in Gujarat. The mission was simple—everyone together, everyone grows. But no appeasement.
The divisive Sachar Committee, formed by the UPA government, could not fulfil its agenda of dividing people on religious lines in Gujarat. For Gujarat Model means working for all 6 crore Gujaratis, without favour and without partisanship.
The much talked about Kite Festival that came to be associated with Gujarat and attracted film personalities and international celebrities was given a fillip by Modi while he was occupying the chair of Chief Ministership. In fact, the turnover of the kite industry, controlled by Muslim community, increased by almost 30 times.
This point clearly indicates that this move was aimed at projecting Gujarat as a tourist destination without thinking of appeasing any particular community or depriving any community of their legitimate benefits.
Role Model in Law and Order
Before 2001, Gujarat witnessed periodic outbursts of communal violence. Post-2002, it has been reduced to zero.
Gujarat had become a hub of smugglers and criminal syndicates in the 1990s that traded in drugs, contraband goods. All mafia outfits have been eliminated.
Terrorists were rampaging the country between 2004-14. But whoever turned towards Gujarat was neutralised. The Indian Mujahideen that was attacking innocents across the country was finally tracked down and busted when they dared to set foot in Gujarat in 2008.
Crimes against women became the lowest and in NCRB data of 2010, Gujarat emerged as the safest when it came to women.
How did all this become possible? Because policing was depoliticised and transfer postings were shut down. More significantly, technology was used to facilitate better policing—from use of CCTVs to drones and from creation of specialised units for specific crimes to setting up of scientific processes. It is not an accident that India’s first Forensic Sciences University came up in Gujarat.
Nation Comes First, No Room For Parochialism
Gujarat decisively shuns parochial interests. Under the astute leadership of Narendra Modi, it became the guiding Mantra. An example of this approach is instructive. As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi ensured that BSF’s requirements for drinking water were addressed adequately at the international border with Pakistan where they were deployed. A 27-km long drinking water pipeline from Khavda to Dharamshala was laid down to replace the old, corroded and leaking pipeline. This new pipe carried two million litres of water per day against the demand of five lakh litres at the time. The pipeline was laid by the State’s Water Supply Department and was done to break the bureaucratic deadlock that was causing delays in the replacement of the old corroded pipeline. Remember, BSF comes under the Centre and is not under the State Government. The then UPA Government was indulging in dilly dallying tactics. Therefore, the Gujarat Government took it upon itself to get it done.
Multiple such examples abound. From retrieving Shyam Krishna Verma’s ashes from Switzerland to “Samvidhan Gaurav Yatra” in 2010 and from “Run for Unity” in 2013 to conceptualising and executing the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, and from Kankaria Festival to deploying women from North East in Gujarat’s natural forests—the soul of Gujarat Model has always been that Nation comes first.
An early anecdote from Modi’s early life best illustrates this point. This is a story from the late eighties—1987 to be precise. Then, Narendra Modi had recently joined the BJP and one of the first programmes he undertook was the Nyaya Yatra.
This was a yatra that was focused on going to labourers in each town and village and making them aware of their rights.
Modi made BJP workers go to labourers and talk to them about what their wages should be, how many hours their work should be and what benefits the Government should give them. This was one of the first mass outreach programmes of the BJP in Gujarat and it was a grand success.
Labourers started asking questions about their rights and Governments as well as contractors were forced to ensure they were taken care of. This experience—of the aspirational class who just need to be empowered has stayed with Modi since then.
When Modi became Chief Minister, Aspirational Economics became an institutionalised facet of the Gujarat Model.
Take the example of the modern, futuristic bus stands that came up in Gujarat. The thinking before was that airports were used by the rich, buses by the poor. Modi reversed this mentality. The Baroda Bus stand gained national headlines, but the vision was the same—empower the people to aspire and then let their skills do the rest.
Take Anganwadi workers. They are the backbone of the Government machinery in reaching out to the women and children and for delivering social goals. But considered to be at the bottom of the pyramid, they were always ignored when it came to even basic facilities.
As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi ensured that BSF’s requirements for drinking water were addressed adequately at the international border with Pakistan where they were deployed
Modi changed this. If Air Hostesses can wear striking uniforms that add dignity to the service they provide, why not Anganwadi workers? Top designers were engaged to design their sarees. Soon, Angangwadi workers started welcoming the Chief Ministers in official functions instead of top bureaucrats. They were empowered, their work was also taken more seriously and their own effectiveness in delivery also increased.
In all these gestures—from policy formulation to micro execution—the thinking was the same—Gujarat Model must stand for aspirational economics.
World Class Infrastructure
That Gujarat had the best roads in the country, that it was the first State to provide 24 hour electricity, throughout the year to all of its 18,000 villages are no longer news. All of this is by now established wisdom. But how did it all start?
When Modi first became Chief Minister, one of the first things he realised is that development in Gujarat is skewed along the two roads that passed through Gujarat—essentially two National Highways that connected to major metros.
History has shown that infrastructure is the precursor to all-round development. How could Gujarat develop if its infrastructure was limited? Thus emerged the concept of 9-Roads—a network of roads that would cover the length and breadth of Gujarat.
It is this thrust, in the initial days, that sparked the sustained growth phase, creation of jobs, development of infrastructure, and emergence of new towns and business hubs.
If physical, basic infrastructure was being created, so was aspirational infrastructure. The Sabarmati Riverfront is a prime example. Post-Independence, no other city has been able to revive our rivers and create riverfronts on the scale and expanse as Gujarat has ben able to do.
The Statue of Unity in Kevadia, hitherto an unknown small place, is now a national tourist hotspot. The revival of Kutch through the “Rann of Kutch Festival” and the attendant infrastructure development are more examples of imaginative infrastructure development.
Overall, Gujarat Model established a fine balance of modernising existing infrastructure and investing in aspirational infrastructure.
The defining facet of the conception of Gujarat Model was its civilisational rootedness and mission.
Gujarat Model seamlessly fused our heritage with our modern impulses. The sustained and focussed work in such areas as the Dholavira development, Developed of Buddhist circuits in Gujarat, Initiating work on Statue of Unity, Launching the Rann Utsav amd Promoting Makar Sankranti Festival are only a few examples of the success of the Gujarat Model.
The Navratri festival and the Garba became an international brand during the years Modi was Chief Minister. Somnath Temple and the adjoining areas have now been rejuvenated to befit its status.
The longevity of the Gujarat Model can be understood from the fact that the same template has now been replicated at the national level—from Kashi Vishwanath to Kedarnath and from Ayodhya Dham to bringing back our stolen artefacts and heritage.
It has been 20 years since Narendra Modi first became Chief Minister of Gujarat. In 2014, he demitted that office and became Prime Minister of India. Since that time, there have been three other Chief Ministers in the State with the latest incumbent having recently assumed office. But the model that Modi established has sustained in Gujarat, has been replicated in myriad ways in other States and scaled nationally at the central level.