Modi will be a disaster in Delhi

Published : Jan 11, 2013 00:00 IST

Interview with Professor Ghanshyam Shah, social scientist.

PROFESSOR GHANSHYAM SHAH is an eminent social scientist who has studied the minority populations of India for over three decades. He was a professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was also associated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. He was also the Director of the Centre for Regional Development Studies, Surat, and the Dr Ambedkar Chair Professor, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.

He worked for a period with the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in The Humanities and Social Sciences, Wassenaar, as Fellow-in-Residence. Author of more than a dozen books, his works on the politics of caste and Scheduled Tribes are an eye-opener for anyone interested in the political process of Gujarat. Excerpts of the conversation with Frontline.

Tribal people, Dalits, minoritiesthey do not seem to have wholeheartedly given their votes to the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP].

Dalits are likely to move towards the Congress. In 2009 my own data showed that a proportionately large number of Dalits had voted for the Congress. As for the tribal people, my old theory is that they were traditionally with the Congress. But owing to strong VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] mobilisation they moved to the BJP in 2002, and my feeling is that around 2007 they moved back to the Congress. Modi had a programme called Van Bandhu Yojana aimed at the tribal people, but lots of money was stolen in the name of this programme and many leaders must have been co-opted. No benefits reached the tribal people, and so they see no reason to back the BJP. My field work in Panchmahals district shows that the Congress, unfortunately, does not have many workers among the tribal people. At one time they used to have a lot of welfare projects, but those are no longer seen. Minorities, meaning MuslimsI doubt they would be pro-BJP.

There has been constant talk about Gujarat being number one in many areas, especially industry, power and water sufficiency.

Modi has talked about development in a rhetorical way, he has not said anything specific about social development. He did not reply when Haryana was highlighted as more developed in terms of investment and/or industry. In all social sectors, Gujarat is behind. On the health index, Gujarat stands eighth, after West Bengal, Karnataka and Haryana, not to mention Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra. In technical education, Gujarat ranks eighth. Wages are lower in Gujarat than in Haryana, Maharashtra and Karnataka. In terms of investment, Gujarat no longer enjoys the first place. But all along Modi has been saying that Gujarat is number one and boasts about receiving awards from corporate foundations.

Did he make a mistake in looking after corporate and urban Gujarat interests at the expense of rural Gujarat?

He had no choice. Given the pattern of investment and his approach, which is the same as those of earlier governments, rural areas and agriculture never got priority. Moreover, thanks to the nature of development, Gujarat is more urbanised and the urban-rural divide is very marginal.

What do you think of Modis prime-ministerial aspirations?

It will be a disaster if he goes to Delhi.

And your opinion of him as prime ministerial material?

He has personified the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh] and VHP ideology. Given the cynicism in the country and the phenomenon of the rising middle class, he will have supportthis class looks for authoritarian personalities in leaders.

Given that Modi has ruined the BJPs name in India and abroad, why would he have any support in the party?

It has no alternative but to project him. He is its only candidate. It believes in his way of functioning. It is a fascist-type party. I believe that he is efficient and that he does not have any personal interest or agenda... no Swiss bank accounts or anything. But his efficiency is linked to his mission, and that is a dangerous one. He has a strong ideological ego, and that is dangerous.

What lessons are there for the GPP [Gujarat Parivartan Party], the Congress and the BJP from this election?

There is no future for the GPP. The Congress has a lesson to learn, but I doubt it will learn it. It needs to change its development model. The BJPs and the Congress development models are the sameboth are investment-oriented and capitalist. The only difference is that the Congress is a social democratic party. They have welfare programmes or rather they used to have them. Modi lacks this.

According to my own data of 2007-09, the poor and the very poor are pro-Congress. The Congress should work for them. The lesson for the BJP frankly, I dont think it can learn any lessons.

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