Nov. 21 - India's Gujarat state shakes off its sectarian past with business friendly policies, a can-do attitude, and dependable power supplies. Lyndee Prickitt reports.
NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4 BY 3 MATERIAL This was the Indian city of Surat circa 1994 - when floods and filth caused the pneumonic plague to spread throughout. And this is Surat today -- India's fastest-growing city and one of the wealthiest too - with annual economic growth of 14% a year, it's growing nearly twice as fast as the rest of the country. SOUNDBITE (English) SOUTHERN GUJARAT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY PRESIDENT, ROHIT MEHTA, SAYING: "Let me tell you, w e belong to a generation that has passed through all that rubbish... It was like a wake-up call for us. And a lot of things started happening subsequent to that." SOUNDBITE (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, LYNDEE PRICKETT, SAYING: The remarkable turn-around of Surat is unique, but its economic successes are echoed throughout the state of Gujarat." Unlike many states in India, Gujarat has an extensive network of roads, an uninterrupted supply of power, and a double digit growth rate. And this is the man many credit with such progress - Narendra Modi, Gujarat's Chief Minister and a serious opposition contender for the job of Prime Minister. Under Modi's business-friendly leadership, not only have long-established sectors, such as textiles and diamonds, thrived, but new industries have moved in - from heavy engineering to steel and oil refineries. SOUNDBITE (English) LAXMIPATI SAREES DIRECTOR, SANJAY SARAWAGI, SAYING: "The biggest factor is the way the state government supplied uninterrupted power to us, they've brought about business-friendly policies and they've supported us with manufacturing." But Modi and his state have a checkered past. Nearly a thousand people died in Muslim-Hindu violence in 2002. Modi's administration was accused of doing little to stop the riots. Last month, when the case against him was demoted to the lower courts, Modi staged a three-day fast as a gesture of communal harmony. With moves like that, it's little wonder he and his state have become the darlings of the business world both at home and abroad. Global investors see Gujarat as the state to be in: major car makers are leading the way, with Ford and Peugot the latest to plough a $1 billion each on new factories here. SOUNDBITE (English) STATE OF GUJARAT INDUSTRY SECRETARY, M SAHU, SAYING: "Traditionally there has been a lot of investment from US, Germany, UK and others. But recently we see investments from Japan, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Israel. They're trying to set up shop here maybe because they think their investments are safe here." Modi is gearing up for a local poll next year, which is seen as a barometer for general elections in 2014. If he can fully shake the stigma of his state's sectarian past, many voters might focus on Gujarat's economic success instead, hoping Modi can replicate that across India. In Gujarat, I'm Lyndee Prickitt and this is Reuters