|Modi (top) hugs Anil Ambani on the dais behind Ratan Tata at the Vibrant Gujarat summit; (above) Modi with Mukesh Ambani. (Reuters and AFP)
Gandhinagar, Jan. 11: If Narendra Modi was disappointed that business leaders were not as forthcoming about his chances as Prime Minister as they were about his performance in Gujarat, Anil Ambani more than made up for it.
Among the first speakers at the Vibrant Gujarat summit today, Anil cited four dates as “historic”.
“October 2, 1869, Porbandar, Gujarat — the birth of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the father of the nation; October 31, 1875, Nariyal, Gujarat — the birth of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s man of steel; December 28, 1932, Chorwad, Gujarat — the birth of Dhirubhai Ambani, India’s greatest entrepreneur; and September 17, 1950, Vadnagar, Gujarat — the birth of Narendra Modi,” he said.
The younger Ambani brother went on: “Whatever the Mahatma said has been practised by Narendrabhai in the last 12 years. To the Mahatma, leadership meant bridging the gap between theory and practice and Narendrabhai did that. Sardar Patel sacrificed personal gains for a greater national good, Narendrabhai did that. Dhirubhai embodied vision and leadership, he dreamt with his eyes open. Narendrabhai dreams with his eyes open, his mind is open to new ideas.”
Anil urged “each” member of the gathering to stand up and applaud Modi’s third straight win and pointed out that the two Sanskrit words that make up Modi’s first name — Nara and Indra — translate into “lord of men”.
He had earlier won loud applause from the audience, which included Gujarati civil society members and local BJP workers, when he started off by addressing Mukesh Ambani as “my respected elder brother, Mukesh”. The Ambanis are popular in Gujarat and for many in the gathering, Modi as Prime Minister in 2014 and a reunion of the Ambani brothers would be a dream come true.
Mukesh, when it was his turn to speak, did not reciprocate. He was also not as gushing in Modi’s praise.
Declaring that “actions speak better than words”, the older Ambani underlined that he had posted “100 per cent attendance” and not skipped a single Vibrant Gujarat Modi had hosted.
“It signifies Reliance’s commitment to Gujarat because Reliance is a Gujarati company, it’s an Indian company and it’s a global company. That is how it was conceptualised by Dhirubhai,” he said.
Mukesh said the Rs 100,000 crore he had committed to Gujarat under Modi’s leadership would be ploughed into the state and made a promise of another Rs 500 crore investment in Gandhinagar’s Deendayal Upadhyaya Petroleum Institute he is partnering with the state government. He also spoke of creating the next generation of broadband mobile telephony that will open up jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Ratan Tata, who took the Nano plant to Gujarat in 2008 when it was driven out of Bengal by the Mamata Banerjee-led land acquisition protests, was matter-of-fact. “It makes all of us in India proud to be here,” he said.
The chairman emeritus of the Tata Group, accompanied by his successor as chairman Cyrus Mistry, today committed to invest Rs 34,000 crore in Gujarat.
Investors look for sites that are “labour-friendly and conducive for productivity”, Tata said, and Gujarat scores on these counts. He gave the credit for this to Modi.
Echoing Tata, who had said while moving the Nano plant to its new “home” Sanand that the clearances came “within 24 hours”, Maruti chairman R.C. Bhargava said “Gujarat is going to be our second home” where car production is expected in two years.
“When we ran out of capacity in our Gurgaon plant, we needed to expandů when we contacted the Gujarat government, we got a quick response,” Bhargava said.
“The efficiency we found here was much better than what people were talking aboutů and what we had heard,” Bhargava said.
The India Inc turnout, which also included Adi Godrej, Anand Mahindra, Chanda Kochchar of ICICI and Shashi Ruia of the Essar Group, and the presence of several ambassadors did not sway Modi into making one of his trademark speeches stressing that good economics is sound politics.
With an eye on a larger national role, he spouted words like “inclusiveness” and “positivity”.
“I reiterate that this event is not just about investments. It is not just about projects which give financial returns. It is about bringing positivity in the economic environment.... It is about bringing global and local inclusiveness in our economic processes,” said Modi, turned out for the occasion in a silk kurta and Nehru jacket with a printed silk handkerchief peeping out of its pocket.
Gautam Adani, head of the Adani group and Modi’s most trusted business confidant, used a religious metaphor to suggest that the Gujarat leader’s national elevation was a matter of time. Gujarat is about to celebrate the kite festival of Uttarayan that signifies a “movement of the winds northward from the west”, he said. A journalist who texted him to ask if he meant Modi was headed to Delhi got a “thank you” as reply.
But more direct than Anil or Adani was Konstonten Markelov, the vice-governor of the Astrakhan region of Russia who had recently signed an exchange protocol of enhanced economic co-operation with Gujarat.
“I would like to wish him all success in India’s general elections next year,” he said, after which the audience couldn’t stop clapping.