As the chorus of the song "Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat" rose to a crescendo on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, engrossed in the music, had started playing a stroke of tabla with his fingers on the desk. Given the fact that representatives from over 100 countries attended the inaugural session of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017 along with some heads of state, Modi looked completely in control.
Contrast this image of Modi with his situation in 2003 when after his victory in the assembly elections as the chief minister, Modi had launched his first event of Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit. He found it hard to convince the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to inaugurate it. Though LK Advani finally agreed to attend the function, the event evoked a cynicism among top BJP leadership. The moot question was: what is so vibrant about Gujarat?
Of course, the ghost of 2002 Godhra and post-Godhra riots was far from being exorcised. Modi might have won the state assembly election in 2002, his victory was much less celebrated and regarded as pyrrhic one within the BJP’s fold. From 2005 to 2011, the journey of vibrant Gujarat was quite tumultuous, marked by US and European nations officially ignoring the events and a hostile UPA regime slapping income tax notices against those industrial houses that were seen participating in vibrant Gujarat.
The 2017 edition of vibrant Gujarat was unique in many respects. The scale of the event was such that it can be easily compared with any international event like Davos. Ambassadors of 100-odd countries with three heads of the state and important government representatives from all big countries sharing one roof with top Indian industrialists and international CEOs was certainly an extraordinary gathering. The flawless execution of the event proved that the state bureaucracy has honed its skill of hosting an international event to perfection.
But the real story of the Vibrant Gujarat 'Global Summit lay elsewhere. In the morning, a session of "Nobel dialogue" was fixed where nine Nobel laureates participated. And they were equivocal in their assertion that the ignorance of political class about the science was a serious concern. And a group of them launched a frontal attack on a group of NGOs, particularly the Greenpeace, that have been resisting the use of genetically modified (GM) seeds. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan pointed out that those who have been using genetically modified medicines for diseases are opposed to GM seeds.
Quoting figures, the panel comprising Harold Varmus, Randy Schekman, Richard Roberts and Ramakrishnan pointed out that the traditional agriculture would fail to feed the burgeoning population unless it is supplemented by technological intervention. They dismissed the fear of NGOs and their backers in politicians as hogwash and not based on science. The most unequivocal indictment of India came from David Gross, a physicist, who cautioned that India must not be afraid of failure, it has to think big. In a query about if the development of science is coterminous with the affluence, Gross said that India was richer than China three decades back. He clarified that science must be promoted irrespective of economic condition. If this is not done, "you will become a service economy without any manufacturing growth" he said, adding that India’s ratio of technical/scientists with per ten thousand population is far far below than any developed nation.
For the first time, Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit proved to be a unique platform to offer an interface of scientists with industry. Students from various colleges from across the state were brought in to have interaction with top scientists of the world. At the same time, industrialists were given an opportunity to interact with Nobel laureates and think about developing world-class institutions to promote various discipline of science.
However, the most significant political take away from the Nobel dialogue 2017 at Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit was the unequivocal support for the GM food. If one goes by the position taken by a section of the Sangh Parivar and a group of opposition leaders, the technological innovation in the agriculture is effectively stalled by this group by opposing the GM food. This is regarded as a setback for Modi’s plan for ushering India in the phase of a second green revolution. The Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit has apparently contradicted the traditionalists and propagated to embrace technology and science in all walks of life, including agriculture, unabashedly.
By all yardsticks, the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017 is a roaring success. Though Modi is endowed with a greater political responsibility, his two-day stay in Gandhinagar for this event underlines the importance he attached to Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit. Since 2003 when Modi launched Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, he was confronted with doubts, suspicion, and possibility of a failure. He, however, trusted his instincts and went whole hog to make it a success. In today’s context, Modi conveyed multiple political and social messages through Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit which has developed into an international interface for industry, science, and society. His tapping of fingers on the desk in consonance with the song “Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat” was an expression of satisfaction and contentment.