Jan 15, 2009

Business - Modi PM material for Anil Ambani, Sunil Mitta

AHMEDABAD/NEW DELHI: From being vilified as the most-hated politician in the country post-Godhra, to being eulogised as a prime
minister-in-the-making, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has indeed come a long way. As the fourth edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit drew to a close at Ahmedabad on Tuesday, corporate India, shedding its usual reticence, hailed the BJP leader’s stewardship and went to the extent of putting the “prime ministerial class” stamp on him.

ADAG chairman Anil Ambani, while addressing the valedictory session of the meet, was effusive in his praise of Mr Modi’s leadership. “Narendrabhai has done good for Gujarat and what will happen if he leads the nation,” he said. “Gujarat has seen progress in all the fields under his leadership. Now, imagine what will happen to the country if he gets the opportunity to lead it,’’ he said and added, “Person like him should be the next leader of the country.’’ Recalling his father, the late Dhirubhai’s assessment of the Gujarat chief minister, Mr Anil Ambani said: Modi lambi race ka ghoda hai (Modi is a long-term player).

Bharti Group CMD Sunil Mittal also showered encomiums. ``Chief minister Modi is known as a CEO, but he is actually not a CEO, because he is not running a company or a sector. He is running a state and can also run the nation,’’ he said.

The branding of Mr Modi as a prime minister material is a far cry from the post-Godhra days when corporates poured their anguish over the state government’s failure to control the riots. HDFC Group chairman Deepak Parekh had then given vent to his anger, asserting that Mr Modi should have put in his papers since his government failed to protect innocent lives. “Which kind of government allows the killing of women and children?’’ he had asked angrily. And the then Thermax Ltd. chairperson Anu Aga, participating in a CII summit here in April, 2002, had confronted Mr Modi with the situation prevailing in the relief camps set up in the state for the riot victims.

By managing to win the hearts of the corporate sector, Mr Modi may have put the ghosts of the riots behind him. If events at Fourth VGGIS show was any indication, the Gujarat chief minister may have emerged as the toast of corporate India.

Both Mr Mittal and Mr Anil Ambani described Mr Modi as the ``future leader of the country,’’ given his “capacity to dream with open eyes’’ and “drive to achieve the results.’’ The younger Ambani asserted that Mr Modi’s achievements in leading Gujarat to an industrialised state had made him ``a proud Indian and a proud Gujarati.’’ He said the way he had transformed Gujarat, he could change the complexion of the country as and when he takes over its reins.

Tata Group boss Ratan Tata led the corporates in lauding Mr Modi’s track record. ``I have to say that today there is no state like Gujarat. Under Mr Modi’s leadership, Gujarat is head and shoulders above any state,’’ Mr Tata, who stunned the country last year by shifting the base of his small-car project from a badly-bruised West Bengal to Gujarat, told the Summit on the inaugural day.

A state, Mr Tata gushed, would normally take 90 to 180 days to clear a new plant but, ``in the Nano case, we had our land and approval in just two days.’’ In his ``humble experience, it had never happened before”, he added, seizing another opportunity to extol ``the speed and transparency’’ with which Mr Modi worked. And it were not just the desi corporates who were falling over each other in lavishing praise on the Gujarat chief minister.

Mr Modi got the thumbs-up from the international community too. Sri Lankan tourism minister M Moragoda, who said his country had also signed an MoU with the state government for development of mutual tourism, went to the extent of saying that he highly appreciated Mr Modi’s ``vision and foresight.’’ The developmental methods of Mr Modi, ignoring his personal image, should be “the recipe for all politicians.”

He also pointed out that it was the first time that his country had signed an MoU with a state instead of a country. The west, which had till now been circumspect about the Gujarat chief minister, too appeared to be jettisoning its reservations. British MP Barry Gardiner, going a step ahead of Mr Tata, said: "Gujarat can lead the world."

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