How Modi's 'Gujarat Model' continues to stand exposed in his home state
The much touted 'Gujarat Model' is definitely proving its critics correct in its home state. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and the form of administration promoted by them seem to have learnt no lessons from the barely managed victory in the recent Assembly polls. For its critics this much-hyped model that was propounded by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his avatar as the state's chief minister for more than 13 years is marked by dictatorial functioning that is marked by scant respect for democratic institutions and political opponents.
The critics do not appear to be wrong as can be gauged by a series of examples that can be quoted by over the last few days and months. The latest one is the Vadgam MLA and Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani raising apprehensions about his safety in connection with a trail of messages on a Whatsapp group called ‘ADR Police & Media’ on Friday in which media persons and senior police officials interact.
Two videos of policemen beating up a person dressed up like a politician and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath answering queries on a series of encounters in his state were reportedly uploaded in the group. This was reportedly followed by a senior Ahmedabad Police official saying, “Those who want to be the baap of police and call the police as ‘lakhota’ (marbles) and those who take videos of police should remember that with people like you, the police will be like this. Scores will be settled. ‘Gujarat Police’.” Next came a thumbs up emoji.
Raising concerns about his security, Jignesh has tweeted saying, “This is getting really serious. Cops discussing my encounter. So, upon whose instructions will I be killed? Has the order come from Gandhinagar or Delhi?”
“This is the real face of the Gujarat Model. If such a thing can be discussed by the police about a sitting MLA one can imagine their attitude towards common people,” says Subodh Parmar, an associate of Jignesh.
“We are meeting the state Director General of Police on the issue. First we want to thank the police officers for being candid in their messages on what they plan to do and how it exposes their trail of encounters in Gujarat. We also want to ask the DGP that on whose orders do the police act on such things,” said out social activist Kausharali Saiyed who has been working with Jignesh and others as a part of Dalit Muslim Ekta Manch.
Just a couple of days ago, the Ahmedabad Police had denied permission to the Manch for organising a programme in Rakhial area of Ahmedabad that has a sizeable Dalit and Muslim population. The adjoining Bapunagar locality has been a hotbed of Hindutva politics over the last two decades. Apart from Jignesh's felicitation, the programme was to be addressed by youth leaders from Jawaharlal University. “The BJP is jittery after its poor performance in the recent polls and youngsters speaking out against its policies. With intellectuals and mainstream media remaining mum on issues it is the youngsters who are raising the concerns of the masses and this is disturbing the ruling dispensation,” said Saiyed.
These two episodes apart, it is the minister of state for home Pradipsinh Jadeja who demonstrated how much disrespect the ruling party has for those not toeing its line. According to this minister the BJP was restricted to just 99 seats in the recent polls because butchers, bootleggers, and those opposing the Triple Talaq Bill did not vote for the party.
This was said while speaking on the motion of thanks to Governor O P Kohli’s address to the state assembly on the first day of the budget session. Jadeja reportedly said: “I will tell you who did not vote for us. Butchers who were angry with us for introducing a tough law against the slaughter of cows. Bootleggers were angry because the BJP government has introduced a tough prohibition law.” He said many school owners were unhappy because the government introduced a law to cap fees. “Those who were angry with the BJP government at the centre for introducing a bill to protect Muslim women against triple talaq did not give us votes either. “But we are not bothered about them,” he said.
“Did he mean to say that till the time the BJP was winning more than 100 seats in the state, the butchers and bootleggers were voting for Modi and his team,” quipped a senior political observer at Ahmedabad with cynicism.
Jadeja incidentally is the same minister who was targeted last year by an individual who hurled shoes at him while he was trying to address the media outside the assembly. While the police had dismissed the assaulter to be a man with an unstable mind, the agitated Gopalbhai Italia had told the media that the attack was on the 'dictatorship and arrogance' of the state government.
But still Jadeja's statement on the floor of the house does not come as a surprise. After all, just a few days after the declaration of the Assembly polls it was the BJP MP from Valsad CK Patel who was reported to be threatening government employees and teachers of his constituency from public platforms of Kaprada, Vapi and Pardi not voting in favour of the candidates of his party. The BJP candidates had lost the polls in Kaprada and Dangs by a narrow margin of 171 and 671 votes. Patel's video had gone viral at the time drawing flak from various quarters.
"They draw salaries from BJP government, but vote for Congress. How can this be tolerated? I will see to it that such people are fixed. But, for these teachers and workers, my district of Valsad would have been a Congress-free district," Patel had reportedly said in his speech at Pardi.
Observers point out Modi himself is known for his scant respect for the Opposition. They point to his speech on October 22 when he had gone to inaugurate the RoRo ferry in Gujarat when in a veiled attack on the Opposition he had warned ‘anti-development forces’ that they will not get any financial support from the centre for public works. This was to send a signal to those mocking his development model that the 'anti-development forces', who (if they came to power), will not get any support from the centre.
In the past it has been a norm in the Gujarat Assembly not to allow the Opposition to debate on issues at length. The practice has been to hurriedly pass all the bills towards the end of the sessions when the Opposition has either walked out or has been suspended.
However, this time things are expected to change with the presence of new leaders like Jignesh and Alpesh Thakor who have the background of being social activists. Secondly, this time around the strength of the Opposition is also more and the government will find it difficult to bulldoze things. Another factor is that with the former Congress heavyweights having lost the polls, the youngsters including Leader of the Opposition Paresh Dhanani, can give a new meaning to the functioning of the house as they do not carry the baggage of the past when the Congress was seen by many as the 'B' team of the BJP.