This morning, while I was enjoying President Barack Obama deliver his State of the Union address (I must confess he is among my favourite orators), I got a sense of deja vu. My mind could not help but go back to the speech of another dynamic politician who had just a week ago touched upon the same issues that Obama did and even delivered on most of what Obama only spoke- that leader is none other than Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
As I was hearing Obama speaking, I felt as if I was seated inside the packed auditorium at SRCC listening to Modi or a seminar at the Vibrant Gujarat summit. Politicians world over may speak in difference voices for political gains but the language of statesman remains consistent be it in a developed or developing country. Like Modi, Obama's address was one of aspiration. It was a speech that demonstrated a path ahead and one that could strike a chord with all sections of society.
It's the economy, stupid!
Back in the day, Bill Clinton used the floundering economy to unseat George Bush Sr. from the White House. Even today, a visionary politician will rise above mundane political issues and present a vision of development that the people would want to hear. Today, the people and particularly the youngsters are not bothered whether Motilal Nehru slept on the floor or whether the sky at 4 a.m. was dark. Instead they want jobs and opportunities that will give them a chance to shine.
Early during his address Obama said, "Our economy is adding jobs- but too many people still can't find full time employment...Our first priority is to make America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing." What Obama said is no different from Modi's visionary approach that has made Gujarat the top employment creator in the country with 72% of the jobs generated in the nation coming from Gujarat. Gujarat also has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.
At a time when issues like outsourcing are burning issues in USA, Modi went a step ahead and repeatedly said that there is no part of India whose child is not coming to Gujarat to earn a livelihood- a livelihood with peace and dignity!
Manufacturing, Innovation and Manufacturing Innovators
Re-invigorating the manufacturing sector was a key part of Obama's speech. He threw light on how Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan, how Intel is opening plants at home, Apple making Macs in USA or Americans buying more American cars today than they did 5 years ago. All this points to a crystal clear vision for the development of the manufacturing sector, which is the need of the hour in the 21st century.
In one of the events in the run-up to the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2013 Narendra Modi touched on precisely the same theme. He gave a Mantra of ‘Zero Defect' and improving the packaging for strengthening the manufacturing sector. He is the only leader in my living memory who is talking about a ‘Made in India' brand in a time when the Centre is all set to sell the interests of the nation to foreigners.
Another aspect Modi has given great stress to in the last few years is a spirit of innovation. Time and again he has called the youth to innovate, come out with new ideas so that the development of Gujarat can pick even greater pace. In Sep 2011 he launched iCreate, an incubation centre for youngsters- if youth has the ideas, the Gujarat Government has the platform to convert their dreams into reality, was the message he gave.
This is exactly what Obama touched upon during his State of the Union address. Obama directly linked innovation as a precursor to strengthening the manufacturing sector. He also shared that the Government created a first-ever manufacturing innovation institute in Ohio and called for the same across other cities.
Obama talks middle class & their aspirations
In a polity plagued by a Mai-Baap syndrome and where the name of one's great grandfather matters more than the work you do, Narendra Modi emerges as a welcome break! During the 2012 Gujarat Vidhan Sabha campaign he became the first politician to speak about a ‘neo-middle class' and their well being, challenging the conventional political wisdom that only talking ‘Aam Admi' is cool and the rest is immaterial. This visionary approach was backed by work on the ground and also paid rich dividends to Modi in the elections.
On similar lines, Obama passionately spoke on the need to create a strong middle class. "It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth- a rising, thriving middle-class." Both leaders realize that the middle class is the fulcrum for a developed society and no society can really progress if the middle class is unhappy.
NaMo and BO talk green
On repeated occasions Narendra Modi has said that the three pillars on which our future rests is IT (Information Technology), BT (Bio Technology) and ET (Environment Technology). As more and world cities, including Beijing jump into environmental degradation Gujarat under Modi has taken great strides in mitigating climate change.
At the crux of these initiatives is Modi's belief that we need to mitigate the menace of climate change not for ourselves but for our futures. No wonder that Gujarat is among the 4 states in the world to have a separate department for climate change. Gujarat's strides in all forms of renewable energy are already well known. Modi's book ‘Convenient Action' is a great read for those who wish to know how a state Government can make the world a cleaner place to live in. What Obama's fellow Democrat called an inconvenient truth, Modi has given convenient actions for a happier future!
No wonder when Obama spoke about doing for on climate change for our children and future and about the need to shine in solar and wind power, I remembered countless Modi speeches during Van Mahotsavs or when he dedicated to the nation Asia's largest solar park in Charanka. Perhaps on his next visit here, Obama should consider visiting the solar park and the first canal top solar power project.
Skill Development for youngsters...
One thing Obama pointed beautifully what that we may take numerous initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure or hosing but none of it will matter unless we equip citizens with skills and training. And he called for the same to start very early.
At SRCC, Narendra Modi talked at length about Gujarat's initiatives for skill development. If there is one state that has taken the effort of strengthening our youth with the necessary skills it is Gujarat. The state's initiatives to transform the Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) can be a case study in any public policy institution or top B-School! While Obama said, "Let us also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job", Modi has altered the ITI structure in a way that the door of opportunity does not shut on any youngster. Creating a record, he handed over 65,000 job letters to youngsters from ITI in at time of 1 week!
Obama mentioned the recent rise in instances of gun violence in the USA. This is surely a matter of great concern and is also a product of rising unemployment and lack of opportunities for the youngsters. An atmosphere of pessimism and gloom coupled with no jobs can create chaos in a society. Even the solution to this sociological problem was given by Narendra Modi at SRCC when he categorically said development and only development is the solution to all problems!
When Modi was doing his Google+ hangout in August last year, the media was abuzz with ‘Modi does an Obama' stories. Modi's Hangout was a path breaking initiative and in a week it managed to get over 555,000 views (Obama's Hangout has about 712,000 viewers after 7 months of the session) and left the youth enchanted. After hearing Modi's comprehensive SRCC speech and Obama's State of the Union that sets the tone for his policies in the coming year, I can now safely say that it is Obama who has done a Modi!
It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.
Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.
It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth - a rising, thriving middle class.
I believe in minimum government, maximum Governance.
Let us make the world our market and send our goods to the world.
I am sure the youth of India will fulfill Swami Vivekananda's dream of Jagad Guru Bharat.
(The writer is a Citizen Journalist based in Gujarat.)