January 9, 2024

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Decode Politics: 20 years after first Vibrant Gujarat Summit, its economic, political impact | Political Pulse News

5 min read

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to inaugurate the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS) at the Mahatma Mandir convention centre in Gandhinagar on January 10. The events are expected to kick off with a roadshow led by the PM in Ahmedabad Tuesday evening, accompanied by United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

A look at how the Summit is projected as a factor behind Gujarat’s growth story, and has given the ruling BJP a boost:

What is the Vibrant Gujarat summit?

Vibrant Gujarat is a biennial summit organised by the Gujarat government with a focus on bringing investment not only from other states, but also other countries. The brainchild of Modi as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the summit was launched in 2003, almost a year after the Godhra communal riots.

Since 2003, nine editions of the VGGS have been held. Each summit has been organised around a guiding motto – this year, it is ‘Gateway to the Future’. During the summit, various sectoral seminars are organised by the state government and partner countries. At the same time, business-to-business, business-to-government and government-to-government meetings are also held. In the run-up to the VGGS, various industry groups also signed memorandums of understanding proposing investment in Gujarat.

Why is the 10th edition of the VGGS significant?

The VGGS is being organised after a five-year gap – the last summit was held before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019. The summit also marks the completion of 20 years since its inception and has been dubbed the ‘Summit of Success’.

Festive offer

Since 2009, the state government has also sought partner countries for the event. In 2009, it was Japan. The number of partner countries has gradually increased since then – the 10th edition has 34 confirmed partner countries, including 21 for the first time.

However, Canada, which has been a five-time partner since 2011, is missing from the list. Canada’s diplomatic standoff with India over the killing of Khalistan separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar could be a reason behind its absence.

How does the VGGS factor into Gujarat’s growth and the narrative around it?

In the last 20 years, major developments in Gujarat have been viewed through the lens of the VGGS.

On December 29, the office of Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel on social media called the VGGS “an institution”. In an accompanying promotional video with the post, noted Gujarati actor Malhar Thakar is seen conversing with co-passengers on the Ahmedabad Metro and saying the VGGS has been “in some way” behind every major infrastructural development in Gujarat since 2003.

A senior IAS official said Gujarat’s recent growth is not only more diversified, but also contributes more to the national economy. “In the last 10 years… Gujarat’s contribution to national growth has increased from 7.2% to 8.5%… India is growing, but Gujarat is growing faster,” the official said. “What is more important is that the growth of Gujarat … is highly diversified. Earlier, Gujarat was known for the pharma and chemical sectors. But now we have achieved remarkable growth in other sectors as well like automobiles, ceramics, renewable energy and ports. We are now focusing on emerging sectors like semiconductors, aircraft manufacturing, defence, hydrogen ecosystem, space-related manufacturing etc.”

The official further added, “One can say (the development) is because of the entrepreneurial spirit of Gujaratis and strong fundamentals of the state economy. But one must note that the growth is sustained for such a long period of 20 years and it is a major achievement.”

As per the officer, the emergence of Gujarat as an automobile hub and the gas capital of India, the resurgence of Kutch after the 2001 earthquake, and infrastructure development from improved water supply to 24-7 power are considered key areas of Gujarat’s growth story.

And now, speculation is rife about possible investment by US-based electric car manufacturer Tesla in Gujarat.

Has the VGGS played a role in catapulting Modi to national stage as a ‘business friendly’ leader?

A senior BJP leader in Gujarat claimed the summit has helped raise Modi’s profile in national politics, particularly since several other states, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal, have emulated the idea.

“Of course, Vibrant Gujarat has played a big role in promoting and catapulting Modi on the national scene. He is not a businessman and still he came up with such an idea and mentored it to the current heights. A political person would never think of such a thing,” the leader said.

“In 2003, when Modi launched the VGGS and continued it every alternate year, people used to make fun of it. Our political opponents used to compare Vibrant Gujarat with the India Shining campaign of the Atal Bihari Vajapayee government while saying that it will crash. But now, look at the VGGS and where it stands,” the party leader added.

“GIFT City is part of the focus area of the upcoming VGGS. Just imagine, (Gujarat) is competing with Dubai… Under the leadership of Modi, Gujarat has provided robust infrastructure, water, electricity, and above all, a sense of security to the global investors… And its political advantage is quite natural. People want development and the VGGS is bringing the same,” the leader said.

Echoing the same view, a senior Gujarat-cadre IAS officer said, “Politics is about raising people’s aspirations and then fulfilling them. I think through the VGGS, Modi has been able to do that and is reaping its political benefits.”

What is the criticism against the VGGS?

Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit has been facing criticism from the opposition right from the beginning. The main opposition party Congress has alleged that the VGGS is being utilised for the personal branding of Modi at the national and international level.

Leader of the Gujarat Assembly’s Congress Legislative Party Amit Chavda said, “It is true that it is because of the VGGS that Modi has emerged on the national and international level. But it is the personal branding of Modi through the VGGS. It has not benefited Gujarat as such.”

“In the past too, industries had chosen Gujarat and will continue to do so in future without such events. Gujarat has always had a favourable atmosphere for investment. If the VGGS is really so successful, we demand that the government issue a White Paper on all the VGGS events done so far, the MoUs signed in it and how many of them have been implemented,” Chavda said.

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