Playing the ‘son of the soil’ card is the simplest way for any political leader to regain any lost ground among his or her constituents. Anti-immigration drives have become the norm of the day under the Obama Administration. In the UK, Prime Minister Cameron has been extremely harsh on migrants since he took over in 2012. Topping the list is Nicolas Sarkozy who has overturned his falling popularity rates for the upcoming Presidential elections by taking an extremely regressive (some would say archaic) stand against foreign immigrants. Closer home, the ‘son of soil’ issue has spilled enough blood in many parts of India. Indians are not allowed to buy land in Kashmir, the Punjab problem, Shiv Sena, MNS and the list goes on.
But, there is also an exception to this world prevailing negativity on migrants and the issue native vs outsiders. That is Gujarat, which has not only welcomed migrants with open arms but also provided them a sense of security and prosperity over the last decade.
A few days ago Narendra Modi delivered a fantastic speech in Surat during a gathering of north Indian migrants. The gathering was a Holi programme and the listeners were predominantly migrants from North India. The mood on the ground was something one had to see to believe- an ocean of humanity had descended there to hear Narendra Modi. Not only was the ground jam packed, there were people waiting outside as well to hear Modi speak.
The points he made there can truly set the tone in terms of dealing with issues of migrants, nativism and holistic development. While the world attributed only crime, negativity and violence to migrants Narendra Modi said that it was the toil and swear of migrants that contributed to Gujarat’s development. Narendra Modi said he was extremely proud of the fact that anybody can come to Gujarat and start a new life with an atmosphere of peace, security and confidence. The many people who have done so vouch for this statement one hundred percent.
Mincing no words, Modi also said that migrants are the true ambassadors of Gujarat when they go back to their home states and heap praises on the standard of life in Gujarat. The message was clear- if there is development in Gujarat, the migrant have played a substantial role in this.
These thoughts of Narendra Modi do merit tremendous importance. In saying what he has said, Modi has gone against the tide, stuck his neck out and taken a stand bold and positive stand. There is no denying that migrants add tremendous impetus to the development of any nation. Look at Mumbai or Delhi and how they developed. But, there is absolutely little political courage among leaders to give credit to them. Bound by petty politics and fear of defeat they prefer to bash rather than praise non-local actors. Modi of course has done the opposite and this assumes greater significance keeping in mind that he faces elections at the end of the year.
Modi also said that it is high time we think towards national development rather than fragmented development. “This Gujarat is as much yours as it is mine,” he declared. When one thinks of the overall development of the nation, these states issues indeed take a backseat. Today the biggest problem we face is that a Karunanidhi will think as a Tamilian first, Dravdian second and Indian third. The Thackeray brothers will think of Mumbai first, Konkan second, Maharashtra third and the nation fourth. Mamata as Railway Minister thought of Bengal first and there was no second place here! Narendra Modi has time and again showed that he is a cut above the rest. It’s India first for him. He has realized that its now ‘I’ but ‘We’ who can take India ahead.
In choosing Surat as the place to make his point, Modi was presenting one of Gujarat’s and India’s cities as a case study of how a variety of communities are happily co-existing here with ample support from the Government. One visit to Surat will illustrate that. One can only hope that other leaders rise to the occasion and take a leaf out of Modi’s books. It is not very difficult- just requires strength of characterer to come out and say this. Pity those constantly viewing life with a political lens will never realize it….