Editor's note: This article was originally published on 7 March, 2016. It is being republished in light of Anandiben Patel's resignation as Gujarat chief minister on 1 August.
Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has dismissed the allegation against her daughter, Anar Patel, as nothing but a vicious campaign by a frustrated Congress leader who is clutching at straws for his political survival.
In an obvious reference to former leader of Opposition Arjun Modwadia, she pointed out that “this leader” was particularly irked by the state government’s efforts to tighten the noose around his business activity. “This leader was getting contracts by throwing his weight around and we decided to stop it,” she said in an exclusive interview with Firstpost.
Anandiben, the first woman chief minister of Gujarat, was in Delhi for the next vibrant Gujarat summit. Known to be media-shy; that way, a sharp contrast to her predecessor Narendra Modi; she, however, was most forthcoming in her free-wheeling chat with Firstpost.
Appearing hurt by the allegations against her daughter, Anar, who calls herself a social entrepreneur, the chief minister categorically stated that there was not even an iota of truth in the accusations against her.
“I have evidence with me to prove that this leader has been hatching a conspiracy to malign me,” she said, adding that since there was no substance in it, she was not bothered. “We are quite transparent in the case and there are records available to prove that everything was above board,” she said. She seemed visibly disturbed by the allegation that government rules were manipulated to award a huge chunk of land to a business partner of her daughter.
Asked if she found the legacy of her processor, Narendra Modi, quite cumbersome to carry on, she said, “Of course, it is not very easy to live up to the standards set by a stalwart like Modi, yet I am trying my bit to measure up…I have carried on the development tasks initiated by Modi ji and soon we would see completion of various projects like the Metro Rail,” she said.
Asked why Gujarat seemed to have lost its narrative in the past two years after Modi’s exit, she took a while to respond to the query. She explained that in Modi’s time, he was setting the standards which were quite high as compared to the rest of India. “Now the situation has changed as India’s growth story is not dissimilar to the story of Gujarat,” she said, adding that Gujarat was still the most favoured destination for investment.
Admitting that she was initially disturbed by the Patidar agitation for reservation, she said the agitation is unlikely to rear its head again. “Let me tell you, it arose out of jealousies and not for socio-economic reasons,” she said while narrating her interaction with leaders of the Patel community. “You see, Patels dominate the political economy of the state and their demand for inclusion in the OBC list to claim reservation is prima facie illogical,” she said.
Referring to one of her interactions with leaders of the Patidar community, she said, “I asked Patels who run professional institutions if they were ready to forego capitation fee on which they have been thriving so far.” “It was quite absurd to see people driving an Audi car and asking for reservation at the same time,” she said with a smile.
Will the assurance for the Jat reservation in Haryana fuel tension in Gujarat? She said, “I don’t think so as most of the Patidars have realised the futility of this political agitation.” She also pointed out that over the years, the gap between merit list of OBCs and general candidates is gradually getting bridged.
The chief minister, however, pointed out that with Modi becoming the prime minister, the pace of development in Gujarat has only grown. “I am not encountering the resistance that Modi had faced,” she said, adding that at times the prime minister even recommends people to go to Gujarat. “We are determined to complete the construction of Narmada dams which were cleared within a fortnight by the central government,” she said, adding that the Narmada project would be fully commissioned by the turn of the year.
Similarly, she said that the ambitious project of making GIFT city, adjacent to Gandhinagar, a financial hub like Dubai or Singapore is cleared of all impediments by the finance ministry in its latest budget.
Unperturbed by the recent poll reverses in the local bodies elections, the chief minister said that given her long interactions with revenue officials at the village and block levels, it would be naïve to assume that she had lost the pulse of the people. “I am always in the midst of people and know the problem of governance at the grassroots level,” she said while summing up the interview.