Ahmedabad, Sept. 28: Disinvestment minister Arun Shourie today reminded Gujarat — a state toiling to remove reservations about itself in the minds of investors — that “in order to focus on growth, a state needs to preserve its reputation”.
Drawing a comparison with Bengal, he said “it is a peaceful state, but because of the reputation it got in the 1960s, it still is not getting adequate investments”. He was alluding to militant trade unionism in Bengal, a sore spot Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had also recently touched at a function in Calcutta.
In Narendra Modi’s hometurf, too, the sting was clear. The bloody riots last year have become almost synonymous with Gujarat and, in turn, India abroad, leading to many a sigh from even Vajpayee.
Inaugurating the Global Investor Summit — Vibrant Gujarat, 2003, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, however, threw in his lot with Gujarat and Modi, praising the chief minister’s dynamic leadership and making an impassioned plea for the delegates — around 150 Gujarati NRIs and 50 foreigners — to rise above the “sustained propaganda” against the state.
“My only message is do not believe in and do not be swayed by all that you have been reading about Gujarat in the past year or so. Yes, a sad and unfortunate event took place, but it was an aberration. Gujarat will learn the right lessons and move ahead,” said the deputy Prime Minister.
Before Advani started speaking, a pigeon, considered a symbol of peace, fluttered in and settled near him on the dais, leading Shourie to quip “this shows Gujarat is completely normal”.
Admitting that the riots had sullied the image of Gujarat and the nation, Advani said the activities planned by the state during the Navratri festival was aimed at countering the propaganda.
The deputy Prime Minister lauded the overseas Gujarati community for its entrepreneurial success. “The Gujarati NRIs’ accomplishments in North America, Britain, several parts of continental Europe, Africa and in the southeast Asian countries is remarkable… it shows that Gujarati entrepreneurs globalised themselves long before the advent of globalisation.”
Gujaratis know how to face diversity, Advani said. But he advised the state that to move ahead it should improve its standing in information technology, IT-enabled services and other knowledge-driven enterprises.
Advani, MP from nearby Gandhinagar, said he would like Ahmedabad to be ranked alongside Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune in IT-related services, which, he hoped, can be achieved under Modi’s dynamic leadership.
Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries, raised hopes by announcing: “Reliance will invest Rs 8,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore in Gujarat’s energy and infotech industries.”
Advani urged Gujarat to be a tourism-driven state. “A sustained and concerted effort should be made to brighten Gujarat’s presence on the domestic and international tourism map.”
Shourie, who is also the communications and information technology minister, offered a string of suggestions for increasing investments in the state and stressed on e-governance — effective and easy governance.
If India wants to realise Vajpayee’s dream of touching 8 per cent GDP, Gujarat alone needs to grow at 10.2 per cent, he said, urging the Centre to change the formula for funds allocation to states. “Please tailor the funds based on the performance of the state,” he requested Advani.
“Gujarat is a policy driven state and does not run on the whims and fancies of an individual,” the chief minister said. The talent, resilience and potential of the people are unlimited in “vibrant, colourful Gujarat where there is no red tape, only red carpets and green signals and blue-chip companies”.