NEW YORK – What happens when the only two Chief Ministers of India, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh, and N. Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh, who have a ‘Department of Happiness’ in their state administration, come to town the same month? They become consummate CEOs; go into overdrive, pitch incessantly to the business and Diaspora community, to garner investment for their respective state.
Naidu visited several states in the US last week – New York City, Des Moines, and Chicago – coming over after a pitch in the Gulf. Chouhan is still in the New York tristate area, this week, with several rounds of meetings and talks under his belt, including in Washington, DC.
Strong orators, with a great deal of warmth and empathy when they speak to audiences stateside and overseas, both Chouhan and Naidu have taken a leaf out of each other’s book.
Chouhan seems to be on a development-driven agenda based on the experienced Naidu’s time-tested method of appealing to the business community in the US with attractive incentives and promise of ease of business – which put the southern state and Hyderabad, especially, on the world IT map.
Naidu earlier this year initiated, on the lines of Madhya Pradesh, a ‘Department of Happiness’ in Andhra Pradesh, to help through volunteers, underprivileged people in society.
Even if one is skeptical of politicians, and their ‘ulterior’ motives – which translates to promises galore, fulfilled or not, to secure more time in office – it’s admirable and commendable of Chouhan and Naidu to strive for the betterment of their respective state, seek the help of the Diaspora in their mission.
Chouhan, apart from performing pooja at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Akshardham at Robbinsville in New Jersey, visited the Incubation Centre of Tandon School of Engineering at New York University, a day after he addressed investors at a business roundtable organized by CII and USISP Forum, in Washington, DC.
At a reception for him on Thursday, at the Indian Consulate in New York, organized by the Friends of MP, Chouhan extolled the potential of Madhya Pradesh, apart from giving his take on Halloween, saying that in India people scare away ghosts by taking the name of Hanuman, which drew peals of laughter from the audience present.
Chouhan, who has earmarked food processing, drinking water, roads, electricity, healthcare, automobiles, tourism and education as focus areas for FDI and targeted growth areas, also talked of exporting the famous snacks of Indore and Ratlam to the US. He also exulted in the fact that the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar plant is touted as the world’s largest upcoming solar plant.
Chouhan also talked of transforming Indore university into a world-class institution, which is keeping in line with Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s call to establish several centers of world class educational institutions in India.
Chouhan, who started his speech with a vision for India, and lauding the growth of bilateral relations with the US, is a moderate face of the BJP. He is in the reckoning for the Prime Minister’s job in the future, when and if Modi were to step aside.
Speaking in Hindi, Chouhan said he has launched a venture fund of Rupees 100 crores in Madhya Pradesh to support startups and innovative enterprises. He encouraged the Diaspora to come up with creative business ideas, which he promised, if found feasible, the state would help set up, financed by the government.
“Youth have ideas and vision to tackle many global issues of agriculture productivity, energy security etc. They need support and guidance,” he tweeted, pointing out that the state has several schemes to promote entrepreneurship, such as Mukhyamantri Yuva Udyami Yojna.
“I have proposed to NYU Tandon School of Engineering Dean Shri K R Sreenivasan to explore a possibility of entering into MoU for the same,” he said after his visit to the Future Labs/Incubation Centres/StartUp Labs, with the aim of replicating them in MP.
“Every Monday I meet with investors with all my officials. I am the CEO of the state and I support investors as it brings employment to MP,” he said.
Chouhan also declared that in next three years’ time, there will be no homeless person in Madhya Pradesh.
Chouhan also cleared the air on the social media and political storm over his statement that roads in Madhya Pradesh are better than those in the US.
He said, to laughter from the audience at the Consulate, that he felt the road coming from the Indore international airport into the city, was better than the road from the airport in Washington, coming into Capitol Hill.
Chouhan also spoke at length about his ‘happiness’ department in the state, which was set up in August 2016. Andhra Pradesh did the same in April of this year. Critics have, however, lambasted the initiative as a publicity stunt.
Chouhan seemed to be replicating some of the ideas Naidu seemed keen on, on his 3-day US tour last week, including to shore up the agriculture industry through cutting edge technology.
Naidu’s main motive seemed to be to sell the city of Amaravati as the ‘newest Capitalist city of India’, to global investors, in his business meetings in all the three cities.
Naidu disclosed that the Andhra Pradesh government has a tie-up with Iowa State University to develop a Mega Seed Park in Kurnool, for seed R&D, and the foundation stone for which was laid by him earlier this month. Naidu envisions the park to have world class laboratories and seed processing facilities, and he wants to develop a world-class organic agriculture sector for the state. In Des Moines, Iowa, Naidu attended some World Food Prize events at the Iowa State University.
Like Chouhan, Naidu too is banking big on the Diaspora community to help him in his mission to help Andhra Pradesh prosper.
In an interview to the Hindu newspaper, Naidu said: “Andhra people are strong professionals and entrepreneurs. In Chicago, I met with many of them. Seventy companies or entrepreneurs have agreed to set up activities in AP, that could create 8000 jobs in all,” adding, that he encouraged the Diaspora to not only help their adopted home but also their birth place, “the karmabhumi and the janmabhumi.”
“America is a great land of opportunity where Andhra people have done well. I urged community members who met me to integrate into the American society,” he said.
Speaking to the Diaspora in Dubai prior to landing here, Naidu envisioned making Andhra Pradesh the number one state in India by 2029 not just in terms of development but also in the ‘happiness’ index.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on twitter @SujeetRajan1)