Wednesday, January 14, 2009

MODI AND REDDY: THE CHOICE IS CLEAR

$200 billion in two days. Yes you are reading it correctly. Investment commitments worth a staggering nearly Rs 10 lakh crores have been inked in two days flat at the just concluded Vibrant Gujarat Investors' Summit (VGIS) 2009, breaking all records. This is on top of Rs 4.6 lakh crore ($100 billion), Rs 1 lakh crore ($20 billion) and Rs 66,000 crore ($14 billion) worth of investment promises that were made at the summits in 2007, 2005 and 2003 respectively.

The world might be in a recession, China and India may be slowing down; Modi's Gujarat is pulling powerfully ahead, all cylinders firing.

There is no one who is anyone in India's industrial landscape who is not in Gujarat already or is not going to be there soon. Ratan Tata, India's most respected business leader, had famously said at the last VGIS in 2007 that one who is not in Gujarat is stupid. He followed up his words with his money by moving the Nano plant there from Mamata's Singur. He has now pledged an additional investment of Rs 21,000 crores besides declaring that he will also set up a geo-thermal power plant. Like Tata, no one else wants to show his stupidity by not rushing to a state that is set to developmentally break away from the rest of India and look like a different country altogether 10 years down the line.

Gujarat is today the perhaps hottest investment destination anywhere in the world, thanks solely to Modi. There can be no better acknowledgment of the honest, no-nonsense, clear-headed and visionary leadership that Modi has shown as Chief Minister of the state.

In stark contrast, with an ever growing scandal, YSR Reddy's Andhra Pradesh has plummeted to new lows and has become a hot potato that no one wants to touch, much less claim.

The way skeletons are popping out in the Satyam-Maytas scandal in Andhra Pradesh, it seems that the rot is far deeper than anyone thought and is not limited to the IT firm promoted by Ramalinga Raju. It is also beginning to appear that the money trail does not end in Hyderabad and probably runs right up to Delhi. All-out efforts are on to ensure that this scandal, already far bigger and more rotten than the Bofors scandal that brought the Rajiv Gandhi government down, does not explode right in the face of the Congress party just before the general lections.

When he quit Satyam, Raju had claimed that he and his brother were the only two who knew about the Rs 7000 crore rigging of accounts that had been going on for years. Expectedly, he was dishonest in his confession then as he was in running the company. With every passing day, the list of those involved in the scam is only growing longer and more damning, despite the desperate efforts of Reddy and the Central government to prevent what is likely to be an inevitable blow out that cannot be capped for long.

Satyam CFO Vadlamani Srinivas has already been arrested and former CEO Ram Mynampati is likely to be arrested soon, as is the former dean of the prestigious Indian School of Business, Ram Mohan Rao. In yet another stinging indictment of India's bureaucracy that has become the prime mover of the rot that has hollowed all institutions, former Union Cabinet Secretary TR Prasad is likely to be arrested soon. Prasad has, in the meantime, resigned for the board of another Andhra Pradesh based firm, GMR, that is building the new airport in Delhi. One does not know how many other companies have similarly 'benefitted' from his powerful tentacles in the corridors of power, but one can be sure that none of them would be following desired norms of corporate governance and transparency and that their managements would be milking them scandalously.

CM YSR Reddy has yet not felt the heat, as he should have by now, thanks to the protection that he is continuing to receive from the Congress High Command, whose choice for the post he was. Allegations against him are flying thick and fast and it is only a matter of time before they stick.

Only the most naïve believe that Raju and family could have bought thousands of acres of prime land in Hyderabad worth Rs 30,000 crores at rock bottom prices, without giving a hefty cut to Reddy. It is an open secret that they also could not have won, in a single year, Rs 18,000 crore worth of projects, including the Rs 12,000 crore Hyderabad Metro project, whose route was changed to enable him to make a killing on the land owned by him, without scandalously partnering with the CM in the loot. And the CM couldn't have got away with this brazen dacoity for so long, even after E Sreedharan had cried foul last year, if he had not generously shared his loot with his bosses in Delhi.

The muck that is floating in Andhra Pradesh is making the much maligned Modi stand out taller than ever. He is clearly a man on a mission, a selfless mission to power his state to development and prosperity in a manner that has not been done in India by anyone anywhere, and at a scorching pace that even now seems impossible in any state except Gujarat. In a country where a hopelessly corrupt, unresponsive and inefficient bureaucracy has stalled India's progress with single-minded ruthlessness through the weapon of an all-pervasive red tape, in collusion with corrupt politicians, Modi has proved that impossible is nothing indeed.

Modi has become the beacon that has illuminated the truth that an honest, competent and visionary leader can single-handedly turn red tape into a 'red carpet' and get errant and arrogant babus to do their jobs as they are supposed to. No wonder Gujarat is by far the the best governed state in India and is motoring ahead of all other states. The most heartening thing is that despite so much of money being invested there, there is not even the whiff of a scandal anywhere. The absence of kickbacks to politicians and babus and a rare collective zeal inspired by Modi to get things done for the people is getting the world to rush to Gujarat.

Despite this near revolution that Modi has unleashed in a corrupt India that is being mirrored by Andhra Pradesh, our media, unfortunately, continues to treat him as a pariah, thanks to the shrill campaign of a few disconnected 'intellectuals' stuck in 2002. In a lively discussion on CNN-IBN on January 12, 2009, about the CNN-IBN Indian of the Year, Sagarika Ghose was blunt enough to voice the fact that, thanks to them, Modi will not be in any list where "a certain degree of the values of the awards are at stake". To them, politicians with suitcases full of looted money have been, and will continue to be, acceptable. But anyone who does not conform to their warped idea of 'inclusiveness', despite all evidence to the contrary, will have fight to earn his prize in the heat and dust of real India. They will not gift it to him in a five star hotel, no matter that he may actually be beyond all competition. That is saying a lot about the credibility of such awards, but who cares!

Fortunately, the people of India are far wiser than most of those who do the rounds of TV studios. They do not carry either fake ideological baggage or ulterior motivations to promote or pull down political leaders. They know well the difference between what is happening in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. They know that Narendra Modi personifies the symbol of his party perfectly as much as Reddy personifies the filth that is draining India. In this vast ocean of politico-bureaucratic muck, Modi stands out as the pristine lotus. Sure he is not the only one out there. There are a few, really few, others too, but he is clearly the tallest and strongest.

Narendra Modi is emerging as the transformational leader that India has been yearning for. With every passing day, that realisation is dawning on more and more of those who were violently opposed to him earlier. That is why Suhel Seth, once one of his greatest critics, is now one of his staunchest supporters. That is why the captains of India's industry have given him a 21-gun salute. That is why the people of India will pull him sooner rather than later to lead them and their country to long delayed glory.

The way the genie that unexpectedly emerged out of Satyam is growing despite best efforts to keep him covered, there is little doubt that, no matter how hard the government may try, the 'aam aadmi' will not be fooled. He knows exactly which face of India is represented by Modi and Reddy, now better than ever before. He is seeing the impossible being turned into a reality in Gujarat. He is also seeing in Andhra Pradesh the ugly underbelly of politicians from whom he had no escape earlier. He knows that he now has before him a clear choice to make. And he will make it wisely, no matter what efforts are made to confuse him with falsehoods yet again.

There is hope yet for India.
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Readers may also read:
1. Covering up the mother of all corruption scandals
2. Tehelka unearths a Prime Minister
3. E=M^2: the Modi phenomenon
4. Single and on a mission: India's alpha (ge)Ms
5. Is Modi BJP's answer to the Manmohan-Mayawati challenge?