Politics in Gujarat: Boon or Curse?

Over the past few years Gujarat has been a state that has had many ups and downs. Even though the Gujarat government has received a lot of flak for its inability to prevent and handle the riots, its efforts in reviving growth in the state and restoring stability and security is commendable and needs to be appreciated. But how strong are the fundamentals of the Gujarat government?

The sheer lack of understanding of the politics in Gujarat has propelled me to review, analyse and write on the political system in Gujarat. Like any other political system, Gujarat’s political system too has its own advantages and disadvantages. But what makes Gujarat different is the extreme policy measures it adopts. In this article I would be focussing on the two major policies of the Gujarat government.

Politics in Gujarat is skittish. On one side you will get to see a highly politicised non-business environment leading to a variety of controversial issues and on the other side a highly promoted business environment not influenced by politics.

Teestha Setalvad, a name that is quite popular in Gujarat but unheard of by most people in other parts of the country. She has been a relentless fighter for the victims of the Gujarat riots against an unsympathetic government and highly politicised criminal justice system. Some politicians claim that the fight for victims of Gujarat riots is a publicity hungry ideologue that Mrs Setalvad is using for her own personal aggrandisement. Such comments aggravate the intensity of such issues and lead to a chaos.

The criminal justice system is so much politicised that the local courts have never been able to give any judgement impartially. Most of the cases have been forwarded to the Supreme Court and it’s a shame as the power and jurisdiction of the local courts have been undermined. The government has surely abdicated its duty when it comes to giving justice for the victims of Gujarat riots. The question that needs to be answered by the Gujarat government is how it is going to get pass this impasse. The amassment of communalism is a critical issue which the government has still not tackled.

However, the area where the government has jettisoned its duty is growth and development. Gujarat has recorded incredible growth rates and has seen massive development activities take place. The initiatives taken by the Gujarat government need to be appreciated as they have been well-planned and thus, successful to a great extent.

The state’s success in drawing investments is commendable. The Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors summit was held earlier this year. The summit represents significant achievement with lessons to be learnt by rest of India. The summit reportedly generated investment commitments of 12 lakh crore. The summit is a part of the process of governance whose objective remains inclusive growth. The Gujarat model of governance is characterised by 3 C’s- consistency, competency and corruption aversion and 2 P’s- Performance orientation and public-private partnership management skills. The Gujarat government’s ideology of believing in Rashtraniti and not Rajniti has paid off. The Gujarat government is quite supportive here and growth and development activities remain depoliticised.

It is unfathomable to understand why the criminal justice system in Gujarat cannot be as depoliticised as the business sector. Just as the business sector has been successful without too much of politics, the law and criminal justice system can still hold good if unfettered by politics. The Gujarat government must make use of fast track courts for tackling smaller issues such as theft, murder and kidnapping. This will decrease the burden of the Supreme Court which can focus on more important national issues such as the riots. Hence, the usage of fast track courts is going to speed up the process of declaring verdicts and will also increase the efficiency of the Supreme Court. The verdict on the Gujarat riots needs to be given soon. There is also an urgent need to stop mud-slinging as it creates a lot of controversial issues and increases the task of courts. This blemish in the criminal justice system can be avoided by applying the Gujarat model of governance which has seen success in the business environment.

It is imperative for improving the law and order situation in Gujarat as it is inextricably linked with the image of the state. If all the above measures are taken Gujarat shall be in a position to answer its detractors. I am sure the Gujarat government has the capacity to correct its mistake and turn its criminal justice system from a sacrilegious to a sacrosanct one. From the business sector perspective, all I would say is it needs to make hay while the sun shines.
Keshav Parthasarathy

[Image source:http://cdn.wn.com/o25/ph//2009/04/28/ee196482665f086cb036836760183d78-grande.jpg]