Gujarat till now had been projected as a unique model of development, which needs to be replicated in all other places. The Prime Minister in his speeches during election campaigns in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and Assembly elections in other states had sought to state that he would turn the country and other states into Gujarat. Gujarat was emulated as a model which was to be replicated in all other states. In recent times, however the vocabulary has changed to state how the other parties in power at the center had been biased against Gujarat and prevented and blocked Development in the state.
The resistance of the people that is taking place during Assembly election campaign of party in power does point to something that has changed in the political landscape in Gujarat. The resentment of the people is becoming more open. ‘Vikas’ is being ridiculed through pointing instances such as potholes on roads and essential commodities becoming more expensive. ‘Vikas Gando Thayo Che’ (Vikas has gone crazy) has spread in cyberspace. People have started questioning the popularized term ‘Vikas’ or ‘Gujarat model’. A consensus that has been reached by all sections of people is that ‘Gujarat Model’ is something that has failed to benefit them despite all the hype that was created around it.
Recently ASHA workers gathered in a meeting in Kapurai village of Vadodara district and pledged to campaign against “the anti-women, oppressive, Hitler-shahi and tyrannical State Government”. In a meeting organized by Jignesh Mevani, the villagers of Gujarat pledged not to vote for BJP. In a meeting on 2nd October, Patidar youth shouted “General Dyer Go back” during the inauguration of the Gaurav Yatra. Residents of two villagers in Valsad district put up banners saying that they would boycott elections as a company is contaminating waterbed in the area.
The boasting which was taking place in the name of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’ has only turned out to be ‘Sabka Doka, Sab Barbaadh’. It is not surprising that people across all castes Jignesh Mevani representing Dalits, Alpesh Thakor representing other backward castes and Hardik Patel representing Patidars have come together to overthrow the present regime. This only shows that the poor from all the communities have been left out in this development model. While the three may represent their own social constituencies, but the broader issues of employment and development benefits not reaching them have brought them together. They only point to the vanishing job market. Coming together of Jignesh, Thakor and Hardik, also represent the unrest and resentment of youth in their own social constituencies. While the voices of minorities and adivasis may not be heard in this resistance, it also points to the level of political marginalization they have been through.
Growth of disillusionment could also be seen from among the traders, who formed a major support base of the party in power. Haphazard implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) had an effect on their business. The double stroke of demonetization and GST hit the textile industry in Gujarat. Production in Surat dropped by half and sales during Diwali drastically declined leading to losses. 90,000 looms were shut and 50,000 laborers lost their jobs.
According to the former chief minister of Gujarat Suresh Mehta, “Gujarat Model is nothing but a jugglery of words”. In this model, Gujarat’s debt has increased drastically to Rs. 1, 98,000 crore. While agricultural subsidies to farmers have declined by 80% i.e., from Rs. 408 crores to about Rs. 80 crores, on the other hand subsidies to corporates namely Adanis and Ambanis in petrochemical and energy sector has increased to Rs. 4,471 crores. Food subsidies have reduced by 60% from Rs. 130 crores to Rs. 52 crores. Industrial growth was hardly able to generate jobs. TATA Nano project did not create enough jobs.
Gujarat model points to the missing human dimension and inclusiveness. It is based on higher emphasis on accelerated infrastructure development of roads, highways, dams and a spike in foreign investment. Focus on human development continued to be the least. While the corporate and the rich classes benefitted, the poor were hardly beneficiaries of this model. While Gujarat continues to be among the high performing states in terms of growth rates, it stands low in relation to inclusiveness and human development. Among states ranked from lowest to highest rates of poverty, Gujarat ranks 10th among 20 major states. In terms of mortality it is ranked 11th. In life expectancy, it is ranked 10th. In overall Human Development Index (HDI), Gujarat is ranked 10th.
The growing resentment among people of Gujarat only point to the failure of the much hyped ‘Gujarat model’ or the slogan ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. It is true that ‘Vikas’ has gone crazy, but it is for the Corporates at the cost of the large majority of the Gujaratis. It is a “Development model for the 1% at the cost of the 99%’. Has Gujarat’s moment of a different version of Occupy movement arrived?
[T Navin is a Researcher and works in an NGO. First published by countercurrents.org]