How VGGS Contributed To PM Modi’s Image Makeover

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How VGGS Contributed To PM Modi’s Image Makeover

| Updated: January 26, 2024 15:06

It has been over a fortnight since the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS) 2024 concluded on a celebratory note. The event’s posters adorn strategic locations across Gujarat. 

While the placards may be removed, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name will be inextricably tied to the event. 

The year 2024 marked two decades of the summit — and even as the biennial event has grown in participation and investments, it has transformed the Prime Minster’s image from a hardcore Hindutva leader to a global CEO of sorts. 

The Godhra riots, which happened just a year after the killer quake of 2001, became a black spot in Gujarat’s history. The communal riots had dented Modi’s image massively. This RSS Swayamsevak-turned-politician received flak from various quarters. An image makeover was due. 

Post 2002, the divide in Gujarat was clear. Most Hindus in the state believed they found a person to stand for their rights. After fanatic mobs attacked the minority Muslim community, many hardcore Hindus, especially the ones associated with the right-wing organisations, felt vindicated. 

Modi’s image transformed, but core Hindutva became a blaze. How India celebrated the coming up of the Ram Temple – even Canada came out with a proclamation obviously for its benefit – speaks volumes of the solidifying of Moditva. 

In fact, Modi strategically created a mix of Ram and development – “Ram Rajya of Development, “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas”. 

From about 1,000 delegates in the inaugural summit in 2003 held at Tagore Hall in Ahmedabad to the recent 10th edition that saw 1,30,000 registrations, the summit has come a long way, and Modi’s image has seen a major makeover. 

In 2015, the then US Secretary of State John Kerry had lauded Modi’s “Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas” slogan at the VGGS. Over the years, Modi’s image changed. We may recall that just a decade before Kerry’s statement, the US Government denied a diplomatic visa to Modi. Times change and so do perceptions.

Former US President Donald Trump and Modi took part in the Howdy Modi event in the US in 2019. Modi reciprocated by holding the Namaste Trump event a year later in Ahmedabad. Modi also hosted heads of the states of a couple of countries in Ahmedabad.

In 2017, Ratan Tata recalled saying you were stupid if you weren’t in Gujarat. He added that some years later, one indeed realised that not being in Gujarat was stupidity.

Heaps of praise have been showered every two years on Modi, but what Tata said reverberates. Now, it is about India becoming the third-largest economy in the world and a developed nation by 2047. 

Also, Gujarat, which was progressive even in the pre-Modi era, is now seen as a growth engine that will take the lead in helping India become a developed nation. In the 2024 Summit, Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, described Modi as the most successful PM in India’s history. 

Sunil Parekh, an industry veteran, tells The Vibes of India: “Modi’s Mantra of Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas fitted well in the western world.” Parekh observed that the VGG Summits helped him move away from the “communal in nature” image.

He added that how MoUs were signed has changed and only serious people were considered. Listed companies do MoUs and, as a result, the chances of projects not coming through reduce, he said. 

Parekh held that development between 2004 and 2014 has been much more than in any other period in the past.

Regardless of the praises showered on Modi, questions have been raised about the realisation of the investment on the ground and jobs created.

Sociologist Gaurang Jani has opined that the BJP remains the party for the business class, and the summits prove what it stands for. 

“The first summit was organised to strengthen Modi’s image that was tarnished after the Godhra riots. So, the summit was an answer for what big lay next. Such summits can’t be organised in a state like Bihar. Gujarat was already a progressive state, and Modi had a base to build upon,” Jani said.

Jani feels that employment has stayed the same. “Government recruitments have reduced, contract systems have been introduced and even the healthcare sector is being privatised,” he added.

However, PK Laheri, the then chief secretary when the first summit was organised, believes Modi’s contribution to the success of the summits is undisputed. Gujarat’s unemployment rate at 2.2% is the lowest among all major states of the country, and the state has witnessed 55 billion dollars worth of FDI in the last 20 years, he pointed out.

Talking to VoI, Laheri recalled that during the first summit, Modi had personally invited 500 business people to attend the event. 

The image makeover, however, does not erase Modi’s image of Hindu Hriday Samrat. Right-wing ideologue Vishnu Pandya feels Modi is “Bharatiya Hriday Samrat”. Check out the memorials that have come up, Shivaji, Sardar Patel or even the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, he said. 

According to Pandya, Modi does not believe in limited progress. “The summits have brought jobs in small villages and India has emerged globally,” he concludes.

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