Just before the sixth edition of Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January 2013, industries secretary Maheshwar Sahu described figures related to MoUs signed at the Summits, as ‘Chakravyuh’.
There is merit in going by Sahu’s assertions. After all, he has been closely associated with organising four out of six Vibrant Gujarat Summits held so far, and has been one of the key drivers in the Narendra Modi government’s mad race for the near impossible hundreds of billions of dollars worth of investment proposals.
The Vibrant Gujarat Summit has come a long way since the first edition in 2003, which was held in the aftermath of post-Godhra riots, and has become the showpiece event of the Modi government. The size and scale of the event has shot up dramatically.
The lavish praises heaped on Modi by the industry captains have increased manifolds. The number of MoUs and their worth has also multiplied, leading to charges of fudging and exaggerated claims against the government. The government obviously denies any wrongdoing, but figures revealed from its own documents reveal several discrepancies in the ‘Vibrant’ figures.
Take for example, the Vibrant Gujarat Summit of 2009. At the end of the Summit, it was announced that a total of 8,660 MoUs, promising investments of a staggering Rs12.60 lakh crore, were signed by the government.
The number of MoUs signed was ten times more than those signed cumulatively in the first three Summits of 2003, 2005 and 2007. However, there has been a continuous flip-flop on the number of MoUs signed in 2009.
During the budget session of the state assembly earlier this year, in March to be specific, the number of MoUs signed at 2009 Summit was put at 3,346 by the state government, 5,314 less than the original figure.
In the budget session of 2012, the government had said that number of MoUs signed at 2009 Summit was 8,660. Six months before that, i.e., in September of 2011, during the monsoon session of the House, the Modi government had put the number of MoUs at 3,346, the same as in the latest session.
Till date, the official Vibrant Gujarat Summit website (http://vibrantgujarat.com/vggis-2009-summit.htm) puts the number of MoUs signed in 2009 at 8,662 (again a different number). Unmindful of this, Maheshwar Sahu reiterated that the number of MoUs signed at 2009 Summit was always 3,346.
“The number of MoUs signed at the 2009 Vibrant Gujarat Summit was 3,346. This is the official number,” Sahu told dna.
Asked about the earlier figure of 8,660, Sahu said the number included MoUs signed by various industry associations with their members.
“The total number of 8,660 includes MoUs signed by various industry bodies with their respective members, not with the government. But, we have never taken these MoUs into consideration,” Sahu claimed.
Apart from the number of MoUs, there are also a host of other discrepancies in the 2009 MoU-related figures provided by the government.
On February 25, 2011, the government said in a written reply in the assembly that MoUs were signed for 8,888 projects at the 2009 Summit.
A year later, on March 2, 2012, to be specific, the government said that MoUs were signed for 7,235 projects.
In the last session of the assembly, the number of projects was put at 3,574. This was on March 20, 2013.
Officials, however, continue to deny that the numbers are exaggerated or fudged.
“These inconsistencies or anomalies could be because the MoU-related figures were compiled by different agencies. There couldn’t possibly be any other reason for this,” said another senior official.