Coasting down the six-lane highway from Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar, wheels barely touching the asphalt, it is tempting to forget that you are in the India of traffic chaos, noise and tumult. Gujarat's administrative capital reminded me more of Putrajaya, Malaysia's high-tech capital complex outside Kuala Lumpur, than of the headquarters of Modi Unlimited. The Gujarat of Mohandas Gandhi and Vallabhbhai Patel has just turned fifty, and some would say that Narendra Modi is merely riding on the crest of centuries of entrepreneurial verve.
Whether you respect or revile the man, you have got to admit that Gujarat gets very little wrong, whether in industrial development, infrastructure, or agriculture. The 2002 riots are a stain that cannot be wished away or washed off, although Modi swears that development has touched every Gujarati. The pols in Old Ahmedabad continue to be a maze of inequity, even though the new(er) city is dotted with luxurious enclaves where many of the state's avid day-traders live and prosper. More and more of the people who lived in the pols have moved to the "other side", the left bank of the Sabarmati, and some old houses have even been restored as heritage sites.
The Modi model works, and even political rivals of the man who has always had an image larger than his mid-sized state have grudgingly had to adopt his mantra. Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Naveen Patnaik in Orissa, and even the benighted B.S. Yeddyurappa in Karnataka have mimicked him, and development and good governance are no longer catchwords. They actually work, and if you look at Gujarat's rising water table, its electrified villages, its ports, roads and canals, its huge and impressive gas grid, and the number of manufacturers beating a path to Modi's door, you have got to wonder how much higher India's overall gross domestic product would have been if all its states swallowed the same vitamins.
Ahead of Modi's fifth Vibrant Gujarat investment summit, Business Today put feet on the ground and pulled together a 360-degree look at the State of Modi. Senior Editor Anand Adhikari, Special Correspondent Rajiv Bhuva, Chief Photographer Umesh Goswami and Senior Photographer Rachit Goswami brought back words and images. My interview with Modi went right down to the wire, but the encounter was one of the more interesting ones I have had with a politician. There was no talk about party politics, the national scene, or other politicians. For over half an hour, we spoke of nothing but Gujarat, development, process and governance. "This government, that government, this person, that person, this party, that party - why talk about it?" Modi said. "I believe we should make corruption our enemy. Everybody associated with corruption should be removed like we remove a fly from our milk." Modi likes using milk similes.
Don't miss, too, our Health Care special report on new business models, authored by a team of our writers. In particular, do take in the dramatic photo feature on low-cost, high-tech brain surgery for which Photo Editor Vivan Mehra and Associate Editor T.V. Mahalingam turned into flies on the walls of operating theatres at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. Just one more place where miracles are performed every day. Team BT wishes all of you an unforgettable 2011, full of wondrous moments and miracles all your own.