Centrestage by Uday Mahurkar: Book Review
How Narendra Modi’s governance model actually works. A catalogue of Modi's schemes  

By the time you read this issue, the verdict of general elections of 2014 would have been clear. And, with that, we would have got the answer to the intense speculation that has gripped the nation for the past six months—whether Narendra Modi can become the prime minister, after a calculated and high-energy election campaign across the country, the like of which India has not seen before. If Modi leads the BJP to more than 200 seats and a winning alliance, it would be a feat that has combined technological brilliance, meticulous planning, strategic seat distribution and tireless personal drive—remarkable for a man of 64.
Unfortunately, despite this, people are hardly wiser about Modi; he remains an enigma. Many people have tried to pick holes in his ‘Gujarat model’ and scholars, like Amartya Sen, have outright denounced him as being harmful for India. 
The media has not been in favour, by and large. He has refused to give interviews to top English ‘news’ channels, because they have been persistently anti-Modi in the past. Modi has appealed to the masses directly through rallies and, since the rallies were worth covering, the media, especially the television media, ended up giving him massive publicity. 
So, what can India expect from this man, if he becomes the PM? Among a section of the people, huge expectations have been built. They believe that Modi can provide solutions to India’s six-decade-long problems. Others fear Modi’s attitude to minorities and also suspect he is more hype, oratory and marketing. After all, running a state is different from running a country.
Will Narendra Modi unite or divide? Will he deliver growth with social justice? We don’t know; but here is a story Mahurkar narrates: In July 2013, a right wing activist of Saurashtra spent two days with a group of 350 armed Maoists in a Jharkhand jungle. The activist was surprised to find that a third of those Maoists felt that Narendra Modi had the capacity to take the fruits of development to the poorest of the poor, through his committed and innovative governance. 
When asked about why they rooted for a man who should be ideologically a sworn enemy of the ultra-reds like them, they told the stunned activist that they were fighting for a just share in their region’s development cake for the poor and whoever gave it to them would get their support.
Mahurkar has been based as the Gujarat correspondent of India Today for almost three decades. He has personally known Modi for years and has observed the Gujarat model closely. He has written a book that avoids some uncomfortable facts about 2002 and, instead, focuses on Modi’s governance. 
According to the author, three of his innovations are unprecedented in India—his decision to introduce online voting for civic body elections in the state in 2010, making voting compulsory at the civic body election level and giving voters the right to reject candidates. Unfortunately, the last two suggestions were rejected by the state governor and, therefore, couldn’t be implemented. 
What Modi unsuccessfully recommended in 2010 was, however, adopted by the Supreme Court in September 2013, when it directed the National Election Commission to give the voters the Right to Reject by giving an option in the electronic voting machine (EVM) titled  ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA).
KC Kapoor, who was the election commissioner of Gujarat from 2007 to 2011, says: “Modi can only be complimented for his vision and political will in taking these historic electoral decisions. Few leaders have the courage as well as the foresight to take such tough calls in the interest of democracy.” And Modi has been repeatedly described as a fascist. 
Modi has had several other path-breaking initiatives to his credit. One such is to celebrate every Independence Day, Republic Day and Gujarat Day at a new district headquarter with a view to bring in focused development and foster a sense of pride in the locals about their culture and history. 
Another one is to make a massive drive for female education. “From 2003 onwards, every year, about 700 top officers of the state including more than 160 IAS officers have been fanning to the village for 2-3 days in the third week of June in the sweltering summer heat, convincing parents to send their children to schools, especially the girls.
The timing of the annual drive is made to coincide with admission of new students in the school every year. The campaign has brought down the overall school dropout rate in the government primary schools in the state from 46.78 percent to almost 7 percent and enhanced the enrolment percentage from 74.43 percent to 99.25 percent in the past 
Mahurkar narrates many such programmes of Modi and some anecdotes that underline a strong and impartial administration. He explains in detail the heart of Modi’s achievement: tremendous growth in agriculture. According to YK Alagh, sustained growth of 4% in agriculture is rare because acreage tends to remain fixed and so the gains have to come entirely from productivity. And, yet, Gujarat has managed a 6% agricultural growth, according to him and 8% according to agricultural economists Ashok Gulati and Tushaar Shah. This was possible by tripling the number of check dams, drip irrigation, providing 24X7 power and charging for it. Mahurkar’s account shows how all this was actually implemented. An interesting account for those who make up their minds about this forceful personality before gathering enough knowledge.
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