This Article is From Apr 27, 2014

Why Modi's 'Gujarat model' is in fact a 'Toffee model'

Sanjay Jha is the National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress party. He is co-author of the bestseller 'The Superstar Syndrome'. Mr. Jha is a former banker, and also a leading Management Consultant in training.

Despite a massively mounted propaganda effort to sell  the "Gujarat model" to India , the fact is that Narendra Modi and the BJP have come up woefully short.

Since by now you will have read enough about the most fictitious, fraudulent, flaky attempt at manipulation of  "success" statistics, I will not bore you with facts and figures. Rahul Gandhi has perhaps given it the most appropriate name - the Toffee model. It is a sarcastic metaphor for the virtually free (low-cost of Rs 10/- )  land which was given to industrialist Gautam Adani.

Not much later, on the land that was officially assigned as fit for "grazing" (the Mundra Port SEZ), Mr Adani floated an IPO that was oversubscribed a hundred times and raised a whopping Rs 200,000 crores; evidently the smart investor knew that thanks to his saccharine relationship with the biggest Sugar Daddy of them all, Mr Modi, Mr Adani had landed himself a treasure-trove, a goldmine that would have embarrassed even the classical robber barons of the American Gilded Age.

Mr Adani and several other members of Big Business are manifestations of crony capitalism, one that assumed a gigantic form under the Modi government. Those who did not have fat purse-strings have suffered;  the Dalits,  minorities, women, children, small businesses, tribals and poor farmers. 

Gujarat , which has consistently been one of India's highest growth-engine states from the time of the Congress government was suddenly usurped by one man; Modi.  Frankly, Mr  Modi has made a mockery of the industriousness, business enterprise and  sharp commercial acumen of the Gujarati business community by singularly taking credit for Gujarat's success in attracting capital or building companies.

The credit for that should go to the hard-working entrepreneurs of Gujarat , their savvy risk-taking skills and innovative ventures. Mr Modi's job as Chief Minister was to ameliorate the living conditions of the poor and marginalized sections of society, women's emancipation,  implement welfare schemes, reduce income inequalities, and usher in communal peace and social harmony. On all the listed fronts, the Modi government has been an abysmal disaster.  Frankly, if Mr Modi even knew an iota of governance, the horrific Gujarat riots could have been prevented.  But more on that another day.

The Toffee Model reflects the flawed understanding of " growth" as has been propounded by free-market fundamentalists, mostly US university-based  professors,  who are apparently Mr Modi's conscience-keepers and have helped draft the BJP manifesto. Many have temporarily migrated to Indian shores sensing the " big Indian opportunity"  as their theoretical models have proved to be not a watershed but a Waterloo in the US itself.

The world's most prosperous country is today battling rising social tensions on account of income inequalities; Occupy Wall Street was symptomatic of the disenchantment with overpaid investment bankers raking in the moolah after being salvaged by government subsidy. The problem with pure academic consultants is that they can be remarkably rigid, and often enslaved by their mathematical models. But in the dynamic, ever-evolving real world that we live in,  especially in India,  solutions cannot be found in mere spread-sheet assessments. Outcomes need more complex understanding of ground realities. A human approach and instinctive, intelligent understanding of the challenges is needed first. Number-crunching and resource raising and distribution can follow.
As Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly emphasized, every state has its own unique dimensions, and thus to believe that one state's prescriptions can be the panacea for another's reveals a myopic and even muddled thinking.

That's why the BJP manifesto was perhaps delayed,  and has ended up being a copy-cat version of the Congress party agenda. Even the hardline right-wing economists in Mr Modi's team have realized that the Congress party's inclusive growth model is India's only default strategic option.

The recommendations of the proponent of free-for-all capitalism would lead to greater oligopolistic structures, income inequalities, concentration of public assets in a few hands and special interest groups riding solely on market capitalization growth.  

The truth is that we do need greater private corporate participation and robust Indian multinationals acquiring overseas firms,  but concomitantly we need (and there is no substitute to) greater social and economic empowerment  through a regime of rights as promised by the Congress party in its manifesto.  The India Story has a huge multi-star-cast, it is not just about a single-star performer.

Toffee anyone???

(The views are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Indian National Congress party)

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