With the Assembly elections in Gujarat literally just around the corner, it has become a no-holds-barred contest between every political outfit in the state. While I won’t be talking of the ground situation here, I do have some thoughts about a section of Rahul Gandhi’s campaigns – the repeated attacks on the Tata Motors’ manufacturing facility in Sanand in the Ahmedabad district.
The alleged resurgence of Congress’ “perpetual President-in-waiting” off late has been the buzz all around. From his Encylco-Pidi-a to his ability to coin new phrases like Hugplomacy (which by the way sounds hilarious in Hindi), he is the buzz in town, with smart trolls inferring his PR strategy to be akin to that of his Canadian dynastic counterpart.
But on the ground level, nothing seems different at all. Gandhi, is still making vague statements that remind us of his pre-2014 days. But in all this, why he chose to attack Tata Motors has left many bewildered. Perhaps it is to do with the fact that the Parsi community, once a guaranteed Congress votebank has drifted to the BJP? Back in 2014, a Parsi high priest had explicitly asked the community to back Modi.
Getting back to the campaigning in Gujarat, Rahul has used the Sanand factory to attack Modi multiple times.
On 3 November, he said that Rs 33,000 crore was given to the Nano factory but he hadn’t seen a single one on Gujarat streets for the last 10-15 days. He later said that you can’t see it anywhere in India.
The point is, the Sanand factory does not make cars for Gujarat alone. Two, given that the primary demand for Nanos is for the Taxi industry, it would be pertinent to look at other cities such as Bengaluru where Nanos are aplenty on the city’s roads. If he really hasn’t seen a single Nano on India’s roads, it is a disturbing fact for it could mean he needs medical attention.
Another really important question is, is Gandhi lying about the Rs 33,000 crore? The figure just seems to have cropped up recently in the context of the elections, and is most likely a misinterpretation, just like the 15 lakh drama.
On 25 November, he asked a more troubling question. He asked if the children of residents got employed by the factory. The point is, the factory alone is not the sole source of employment. Add to this the fact that Gujaratis are predominantly business oriented, and what do you get? A thriving ‘local economy‘. If a factory comes up, so do other businesses in the vicinity. From a tea stall to a trucking business to vegetable vendors, everything comes up. Different people do different things for a living.
Further, the highway connecting Sanand to Ahmedabad was also upgraded to a four lane highway, which turn means improved connectivity to the town along with a host of other things including highway-side businesses. Fun fact: Motels run by Patels on highways in the United States are called Potels. Within the factory, there are many jobs, from maintenance to basic clerical jobs to high end ones which require skilled engineers. Is Gandhi asking for unskilled workers to make unsafe cars?
The more troubling aspect of this question is: Is Rahul Gandhi batting for child labour or child exploitation? If that is the case, then sorry, I’d never vote for you.
On 26 November, he made an outrageous claim saying that Rs 33,000 crore had turned to ash because the plant was manufacturing just two Nanos in a month, displaying the failure of Make In India as well. In order to seem intellectual, he backed up his claim by citing a Business Standard report. Unfortunately for Gandhi, many of us also read the same report which mentioned a substantial bit of information to prove him wrong.
The report clearly does mention that around 6,200 Tiagos and 2,300 Tigors are manufactured at the same plant. That’s 8,000 cars a month, at the least. Further, last month Tata announced that one lakh Tiagos had been assembled at Sanand. Yes. 1,00,000. A Hundred Thousand Tiagos. Is this a sign of a useless factory?
Further, Sanand was never part of Make In India, for the Make In India scheme came up only post 2014.
What riles any person is the attack on Make In India – which in no way is a Swadeshi manufacturing scheme – but basically a platform to fuel more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Gandhi’s distant relative Tehseen Poonawalla (no relation to Cyrus, Adar or Natasha Poonawalla) mocked the Make In India week in 2016, and that too in a rather disgusting manner. When a stray firework caused a fire at the cultural night, Poonawalla was quick to jump the gun and proclaim that “Modi’s Fake In India” would go up in smoke.
While Rahul Gandhi is certainly not someone to be taken seriously, the itch is that nobody ever questions him. This is my attempt to do the same. Dear Mr Gandhi, do you understand economics, business or anything for that matter?