In Gujarat, in the beginning was the deed. In West Bengal, in the beginning — and in the end, as well — there were demonstrations and protests. This is the principal reason why Gujarat finally got the Nano project, and why West Bengal could not keep it after having bagged it initially. In economic affairs, unlike in politics, a week is not a long time. The chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, took barely a week to invite Ratan Tata to his state, and to clinch the small-car project that is Mr Tata’s dream. The first car for Rs 1 lakh will now roll out of Gujarat. The site of the quondam Nano factory in Singur will remain as the most eloquent testimony of not only Mamata Banerjee’s folly and obstinacy, but also of the love of street activism that is the hallmark of all political parties in West Bengal. Gujarat and West Bengal are a study in contrast. If speed marks the decisions of the Gujarat government, procrastination and red tape delay the decisions of the West Bengal sarkar. Gujarat is known for its good infrastructure and for a commitment to make it even better. In West Bengal, infrastructure is nowhere on the government’s radar, and therefore it is all in a pitiable state. It is no surprise, therefore, that Gujarat is miles ahead of West Bengal in the race for industrialization. In fact, West Bengal is a non-starter in the race. The exit of the Tatas from Singur only highlights the point.
The government and the people of Gujarat have successfully insulated issues of economic development from political rivalry. The Opposition to Mr Modi does not obstruct his schemes to attract more capital to Gujarat. The opposition parties are aware that if Gujarat develops economically, all the people of the state, and not just Mr Modi’s supporters, will be the beneficiaries. Thus, even critics of Mr Modi’s brand of sectarian politics have to admit, through gritted teeth perhaps, that he does an excellent job of securing the faith of investors. Having burnt his fingers where rallies and bandhs prevent work and industrialization, Mr Tata has sought the safety of Gujarat where he knows his money will be safe, and his factory not threatened by disruption. The aim of Gujarat is to push forward; the aim of West Bengal is to back into the past. This is the lesson of the big fuss over a small car. What West Bengal does today, the rest of India holds in utter contempt.