Gujarat Crisis

The Chief Minister of Gujarat Anandiben Patel has resigned. Under normal circumstances, such a resignation may not imply much, but here it is clearly the symptom of a political crisis, although the official explanation on the part of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership is that she has resigned owing to old age. Such an explanation is, however, scarcely enough to conceal the real state of affairs. A minister in the BJP government since 1998 Anandiben Patel succeded Narendra Modi as Chief Minister on May 22, 2014. Not very long ago BJP faced defeat in the rural areas in the civic polls. Indications are that BJP is steadily losing ground and euphoria over Gujarat model is no longer there.

Gujarat witnessed in 2002 the planned massacre of Muslims in which dalits, carefully brainwashed by the BJP-RSS combine over a long number of years, participated in large numbers. Gujarat also saw the masterminds getting away with impunity. But things have changed a lot since then. Dalits have now apparently become aware of the danger posed by the forces of militant upper-caste Hindutva to their lives and dignity, and have begun to react. The barbaric incident of July 11 in which four dalits, who were skinning a dead cow, were mercilessly flogged by self-styled champions of Hindutva at Una in the district of Gir Somnath has ignited the flame of their simmering anger. Notwithstanding the silence of Narendra Modi, the soi-disant acolyte of Ambedkar, the incident has created a nationwide stir and on 31 July, thousands of dalits converged in Ahmedabad in order to voice their protests. The protests were directed towards the government, not towards Muslims. Anandiben Patel offered her resignation a day after. Whatever the official explanation, it is as clear as daylight that Anandiben is incapable of tackling the problems faced by the government, and that she is no longer in the good graces of Narendra Modi. After 'Una' and its fall-out it will be difficult to pit Dalits against Muslims.

It would still be a mistake to attribute the crisis solely, or even dominantly, to the flogging episode. Earlier, the movement of Patels for recognition as OBCs and for reservation had rocked the entire province, leading to a confrontation with the government and to sacrifices in terms of human lives. The Gujarat government could not pacify the agitators, and the grievances are likely to erupt once again. The grievances seem to be the product of an agrarian crisis created over uneven distribution of resources. Western Gujarat has been receiving irrigation water in enough quantities, while the areas of the Saurastra region are left deprived. Moreover, Modi-style industrialisation and urbanisation have been drawing resources from the countryside, thus impoverishing the latter and enhancing disparities. The Patel movement, articulated in the demand for reservations, is the outburst of grievances over such disparities accumulated over a long time, grievances having their genesis in the Modi-style of ‘development’.

It should be noted in this connection that 'vibrant' Gujarat under Narendra Modi could not move a single step upward in the ranking of states in terms of physical quality of life, the key component of development. Kerala remains far ahead of Gujarat, as do several other states. Yet there have been investments worth trillions of rupees in Gujarat over the past two decades or so. This shows that the benefits of 'development' have reached only a small section of the people, and the broad majority have been left in a state of deprivation. If one wishes to see what may be called 'predatory growth', Gujarat may serve as a perfect model. Assembly elections are due in the later part of 2017, and another ‘Vibrant Gujarat Summit’ scheduled to be held in January, 2017 is unlikely to save the situation.

One aspect of the crisis, definitely a cause of worry to the BJP and the RSS, is that the old practice of mobilising dalits against Muslims, along with that of keeping dalits in a state off permanent subjugation, has suffered a serious setback, and the opium of Hindutva is hardly enough to make dalits yield to their fate. But perhaps the greater crisis is that on the whole, the model of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ has received such an injury from which it is unlikely to recover in the immediate future.


Vol. 49, No.5, Aug 7 - 13, 2016