CM Rupani tells ET in a detailed interview, asserting that “Modi’s Gujarat” is being run on his principles of transparency, quick decision-making and sensitivity towards all communities. Ahead of the state’s flagship business summit, Vibrant Gujarat 2017, Rupani who took over as the CM in August, speaks about his economic vision, and his election plans. Excerpts:
How different will Vibrant Gujarat be this year?
Congress-led UPA created hurdles after every Vibrant Gujarat summit. Tax notices were issued without reason on some companies that signed MoUs at the event. The opposition did that to prevent credit going to Narendrabhai. In 2014, the BJP government in the Centre had just settled in when Vibrant Gujarat happened. But this time, the Centre is properly settled down and doing well.
Both the state and Centre will make sure Vibrant Gujarat 2017 is the best so far. Also Narendrabhai’s image that has become popular across the world will add to our benefit, so will the Centre’s programmes such as Make in India, Skill India. We know puri duniya ki nazar Gujarat pe hai (everyone is keenly watching Gujarat). The central government, all embassies are assisting us to make the event a grand success.
How are you pitching the state to investors?
We have delegates coming from over 100 countries. Our focus is to increase FDI and also local investments in Gujarat. Narendrabhai’s vision of GIFT city of becoming an international finance city is taking shape too. Two big international financial projects, one a setup of the Bombay Stock Exchange for international trading and an International arbitration centre are also coming up at GIFT city in Gandhinagar. This is big for us as Indian players sit in places such as Singapore and Dubai and trade globally. Same facilities will be available for them here.
Finance ministry, RBI and SEBI and others have given us the nod already. That apart 6-7 international and national banks and several insurance companies are setting up their facilities there. In Dholera, infrastructure work worth Rs 3000 crore has already started on creating an industrial city like Shanghai. It is near Ahmedabad and so there will be good connectivity too.
It will have an import-export centre, an airport, and new factories. Also, Gujarat has a rich coastline. For development of coastal economic zone we will have a mass production facility, just like in China. Lakhs of people will get employment there in the coming months.
Will the CRZ norms not come in the way?
We are already looking into it. Historically, development has taken places on sea fronts the world over. We have 25% of the country’s coastline. We would like to make the best use of it. Niti Aayog is looking at forming coastal economic zones as a pilot in one of two places in the country. Gujarat because of its excellent port facilities, road connectivity and overall conducive business environment is favoured for it. We are discussing them with Niti Aayog.
Recent reports show Telengana and Andhra Pradesh have overtaken Gujarat in ease of doing business. Your comments.
It is abundantly clear that under Narendrabhai as the PM there is an atmosphere in all states that development is the only agenda. I believe that Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are the three leaders in business now and all three are equally aggressive. The difference is just about a few points. Gujarat does not lose when Telengana and AP progress. In fact, it shows there is healthy competition among the states. It shows how cooperative federalism is working well under the PM.
Are you influenced by China?
China in the last two decades has aggressively surged ahead. We have to accept that. We are effectively focussing on Narendrabhai’s dream of ‘Make in India’. We want good ties with all countries, including China. Investments from all of them are welcome.
What are your views on GST?
It’s good for everybody. For years, the industry has been demanding it but unfortunately it didn’t happen for so long. But Narendrabhai has done it. This will boost the economy. ‘One nation, one tax’ is good for the country. The Central government too has given guarantee to compensate the revenue for five years. If we find we are losing revenue on some fronts I am confident we will make up for that on other fronts.
So you are okay with the slabs?
Even when VAT was introduced, there were apprehensions. Our finance minister and secretary have come to Delhi and held several meetings before we decided to approve it.
What is your vision for Gujarat?
We want the overall development of Gujarat. Every area in Gujarat is known for a certain special business. Surat is known for textiles and diamonds. Vadodara for education and chemicals, Rajkot for its small scale industry. We want the industry to grow in the places where they have traditionally flourished. That apart, we have industrial hubs coming up in Dholera, Sanand and Mehsana. Maruti has put up in a plant a remote rural area. Saurashtra has also got two big refineries, Reliance and Essar.
What about jobs? There is a feeling that the recent stir was due to unemployment.
Gujarat is number one state in creating new jobs. We have around 84% job creation while other states have less than 20%. Our focus is definitely on youths, on getting them employed in the state. People in Gujarat are not unemployed.
They have jobs but many feel they want better jobs. They want “ichhit naukri” (desired job). Some still have their names in the employment exchange while working at a certain place. We have no problem with the aspirations of people growing, with them wanting better jobs. Any new industry comes, we ask them to adopt an ITI. They get their teachers to train so the quality of skill training is also high.
The government is helping them do that. After many such short term courses, the youth are ready for self employment. Maruti, Tata, Pidilite have run such courses and created skilled youth. We are also looking at cooperation from countries such as Germany, China and others to skill our youth, not only in manufacturing but also in the service sector.
As a CM who faces election within a year, what are your priorities ?
It is not about physical achievements alone. When you ask people what are the features of “Modi ka Gujarat” they will tell you transparency, decisiveness, sensitivity and progressiveness. Those are the guiding principles for the government even today. When Narendrabhai would say ‘hun Khaato nathi, khava deto nathi’ (I am not corrupt, I won’t stand corruption) strongly moving his fingers, people were moved.
They trust him and understandably so because he did what he said. Narendrabhai was clear that if the government is clean and intentions are honest, people will automatically trust it. Keeping this principle of governance intact is my top priority.
You took over as the Gujarat CM recently. How has it been so far?
On November 7, I will complete three months as CM. All secretaries in Gujarat make very fast decisions. Narendrabhai used to work like that. We have taken over 100 decisions in the last 90 days. Gujarat government is on fast track, people are saying that. From the auspicious day of ‘Labh Pancham’, we have started this new programme called, ‘Seva Setu’, wherein we have formed clusters of six to seven villages that will be visited by groups of about 14 officers each, to help people with completing formalities to avail the benefits of government schemes, including widow pensions, aadhar card, ration card, revenue records, etc.
This will cover the state three times in three rounds in the next one year. I am myself going to Kutch to monitor the programme. We have told our officers that within 48 hours, the document should reach the person.
There was a feeling last year that the grip of the state government on the administration had loosened…
We have tightened everything now, especially law and order. We have had two major rounds of transfers in bureaucracy and police. That has sent out a clear message that the government is taking administration, law and order very, very seriously. There will be no compromise on that front. We have tightened the screws on prohibition too.
Can we expect an early election?
Time se hi hoga…
There is a feeling that Dalits are not happy after the Una incident.
Una was politicised because of UP elections by some parties and people keeping the Dalit vote base in mind. The incident should have never happened, I accept that. It was a very unfortunate incident. But once it happened the government took immediate action against all the accused. There was instant enquiry which rarely happens in other states. I want you to point out any state that has responded this fast to any crime against Dalits.
Is there an attempt to create a caste divide?
I agree that after the Patidar agitation, we did face a little problem in our panchayat elections. But, after that we have a series of elections. Of the two assembly seats, we won one in Surat by a huge margin. Then we wrested a seat of the Congress in Junagadh. BJP won more seats than last time in Gandhinagar municipal body elections. We won all the 28 nagarpalika seats too. This means the performance of the BJP has not been affected in nagarpalika, corportation or assembly election. In fact, in many cases, it has only improved. Even the Congress knows that if elections are held today, we will win easily.
Gujarat has always been a leader specific state. Do you feel the pressure to perform?
Narendrabhai ka Gujarat sambhalna hai .. .. pressure toh hoga hi. (smiles)
Does the PM take updates from you?
Yes, he has to do it. Karna hi padta hai. The way he worked systematically for so many years, and so hard it is a lesson for us. I am blending into the same system.
What is the advice PM has given you?
He told me to do two things – work hard and be strict. (smiles)
Will you also travel abroad to sell Gujarat?
Our delegations have done that. No foreign trips for me till December, 2017 (smiles)
Are you settled in the job?
Everything was settled on the second day itself. I am getting good cooperation and love from people. Our focus is to drive the state on the path of progress, the way Narendrabhai steered it and live up to the confidence of the people.
The Congress is starting a campaign for the tribals and farmers that might be led by Rahul Gandhi. Do you feel the BJP will have to focus on some communities?
We are doing everything possible to make life easier for the tribals. Our Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana designed by Modiji himself is on which looks at improving their lives holistically. Narendrabhai visited Dahod recently, and inaugurated Sauni Irrigation Scheme in Jamnagar. Nearly Rs 4,800 crores of project to provide drinking water to rural and tribal areas are complete.
Places such as Banaskantha and Kutch that were completely arid have water now. There is complete water security there. Over 1,20,000 km of water pipelines through which filtered water reaches people in 14,000 villages across the state. For the last two years, we had less rainfall in Gujarat but unlike places such as Latur, we sent no tankers, all water has been sent through pipelines.
After Nano, General Motors too has left Gujarat…Your comments?
GM decided to go because of their internal issues. Now, there are several takers for the GM plant too and credit of that should go to the Gujarat government.
Do you have a growth figure in mind before the election?
We will be in double digit for sure.
There are other leaders such as Jignesh Mevani who are making news..
They are on social media not on ground.