VIRENDRA KAPOOR Monday, July 04, 2005 12:42:23 IST
The Gujarat CM packaged his contents in a well-reasoned speech, interspersed with pointed references to rising social and economic indicators
The annual meetings of the National Development Council have become a familiar ritual. Participants from the prime minister down to the state chief ministers make set-piece speeches while officials behind-the-scenes work on consensus resolutions. After two or three days of talkathons, they disperse happily, only to meet again for an equally fruitless exercise a year later.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did try to break the mould this year, but all in vain. In order to make the NDC deliberations more meaningful, to ensure a better understanding of problems confronting each state, he repeatedly asked the assembled CMs not to read mechanically from their prepared speeches. Since these had already been distributed along with various other agenda and background papers in a neat little folder at the start of the inaugural session on Monday morning ( June 27), the PM said that these should be taken as read.But whether due to the poverty of talent or sheer cussedness, most CMs found it hard to speak extempore about the myriad problems confronting their states and how the centre could helpameliorate them. In fact, Singh stopped a couple of CMs mid-sentence when they, parrot-like, read out from the texts, but to no avail. At one stage, when the Karnataka CM Dharam Singh was droning on and on, hardly taking his eyes off the prepared text, the PM politely asked him, "Dharam Singhji we have read your speech already. Please do no read it. If you have anything to add or amplify," and before he could finish his sentence, Dharam Singh responded,
" Sir, I will not take long," and once again went back to reading from the written text. No wonder several CMs, including Mulayam Singh Yadav of UP were caught on the camera stealing the proverbial forty winks when they were supposed to be debating ways and means to boost economic growth in their respective states.However, much to the relief of everyone present, one CM who really stole the show was Gujarat's Narendra Modi. By all accounts, he made a power-point presentation without, for a moment, looking at the prepared text. He pointedly told the PM that though the Planning Commission was scaling down the growth target from over eight per cent to a little over seven per cent, Gujarat had registered a growth rate of over 15 per cent last year and was on course to repeat the feat in the current financial year as well. It wasn't Modi's figures and statistics alone which impressed the CMs and senior babus at the NDC meet; the Gujarat CM packaged his contents in a well-reasoned speech interspersed with pointed references to rising social and economic indicators made possible by well-considered policy and pragmatic measures undertaken by his government. And because he had mastered his case well, there was not a soul in the main hall in Vigyan Bhawan who did not sit up and listen attentively to what he had to say. At the end of his contribution - it wasn't a speech in the conventional sense - most CMs, including those belonging to the Congress Party - made it a point to congratulate Modi. At the end of the first day, there was consensus among the participants that Modi's was, by far, the best contribution. West Bengal's Buddhadev Bhattacharya and his Marxist counterpart from Tripura, Manik Sarkar, in a straw poll among the participants came distant second and third. Meanwhile, after a major gas find by a Gujarat government undertaking in the Godhavari basin, a gung-ho Modi is about to announce an equally big development on the industrial front.