Thursday, November 22, 2012

Blame it on the Centre

Chief Minister Narendra Modi has the knack of holding others responsible for every issue that he manages to create, be it the price of gas or the thali to be served during Independence Day fete 


Last week when we were celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Independence Day and remembering the epic resistance against the British rule, Chief Minister Narendra Modi was fighting a different kind of battle — a battle over the thali rates with the 85-year-old Governor Kamla Beniwal.
    Modi launched a scathing attack on Dr Kamla at a public meeting in Junagadh on the eve of the Independence Day. He said, “Actually, on behalf of the governor, thereisagatheringinJunagadhtod

ay, and for that the governor's office had invited tenders, and one bidder submitted Rs 700 per dish.” He however didn’t say if the rate of Rs 700 was finalised. Modi added, “It was the governor's office which invited tenders and finalised the menu,whilethestategovernment only paid the bills.”
    It was good to know that the office of the governor still follows the tendering process which the Modi government didn’t, at least, in the Rs 400-crore fishing contract scandal.
    It may be worth pointing out a coupleofinstanceswherethestate government had paid the bills. Modibeganhisstate-wideSadbhavana mission on his birthday on September 17, 2011. The taxpayer in Gujarat paid for Modi’s Sadbhavana mission, probably one of the most expensive birthday celebrations ever anywhere! The General Administration Department (GAD) planned for expenses related to the ‘mission’ in November 2011, passing two government resolutions instructing all department heads, district collectors and other authorities to debit these costs as ‘accidental expense’. The GR advised officials concerned to mention on the bill ‘Contingency fund sanctioned under government memorandum’. The expensewillbelaterontransferredto supplementary budgetary demands under the head of 'Sadbhavana Mission related programme (un-planned) expense’ and will be placed in the upcoming budget session for the approval of the assembly.ThebudgetsessionofGujaratAssemblytookplacefromFebruary 24, this year, twelve days after Modi completed 34 fasts covering 26 districts.
    To capitalise further on the Sadbhavana, Modi thought it would be a great idea to show Muslim support to wash away the stains of 2002. Thousands of people were mobilised. There were skull caps everywhere and it was difficult to identify people. Then there was this man dressed in a traditionalArabattire,thelongwhite thobe, and its accompanying headgear keffiyeh. One camera zoomed in and this ‘Arab Sheikh’ turned out to be our very own Z A Sacha, the former deputy municipal commissioner of the Ahmedabad. An embarrassed Sacha said, “Every Friday, I offer namaaz in this attire.”
    This ‘attirical’ revelation prompted ex-CM Suresh Mehta to hunt for the recordings of the Sadbhavana sabhas. He also filed several RTIs. The entire state government machinery became super-active to suppress the data. However, seven districts responded to the RTI plea on skull caps so far. One very interesting fact surfaced. The Navsari district administration gave Rs 4,800 to each of the six mamlatdars to buy skull caps for CM’s fast. Rs 28,800 may not be a very big amount, but this act exposes the real agenda. More than 9000 bus trips were made to fill up the fast venues, the cost of whichrunsintoseveralcroresifwe calculate it by the standard Rs 22 per km.
    The VIP sofas put up on the first three rows of Sadbhavana sabha may have been rented at Rs 500 to Rs 1500 per hour. Each fast is estimated to have cost at least Rs 10 crore, excluding the cost incurred in deploying thousands of police and SRP personnel. Of course, the cost of the skull caps too. The whole world got an impression that Muslims in Gujarat are in love with Modi.
    When it comes to giving cheap gas to Gujarat, Modi blames the Centre. But now it is known that the state is being provided about 27 per cent of gas from the Centre. Gas is available with the Central government as per the administered price mechanism so there is no variation in the rate of gas providedbytheGovernmentofIndia.
    The real culprit for the high gas price turns out to be high VAT in Gujarat.TheGovernmentofGujarat charges 15% VAT on gas, while governments in other states charge VAT between 0 to 4%. Another reason is of course the publicly known nexus between the ruling party and Adani Group.