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India’s top industrialists have lined up to heap praise on Narendra Modi and promise billions of dollars in investment in the prime minister’s home state at an event just months before a potentially pivotal national election.
Economic issues will be high in voters’ minds in the lower house election expected in April and May, with the Indian National Congress and other opposition parties attacking the record on job creation of Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata party.
Modi on Wednesday hosted Indian and foreign executives and leaders from the United Arab Emirates, Czech Republic and Mozambique at the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, where companies queued up to announce commitments to the western state where he launched his political career.
Gautam Adani, chair of the sprawling Adani Group, pledged to invest more than Rs2tn ($24bn) over the next five years in Gujarat, where it is building one of the world’s largest solar and wind energy parks.
Adani, whose group was hit by a short seller attack by Hindenburg Research last year, hailed what he called Modi’s “extraordinary vision”.
Mukesh Ambani, chair of the Reliance Industries conglomerate, said he would work to help Gujarat meet its goal of generating half its power through renewable sources. Reliance said it would be ready in the second half of this year to commission a Green Energy Giga Complex producing photovoltaic cells, green hydrogen and other products.
Ambani hailed Modi as “the most successful prime minister in India’s history”, adding: “When you speak the whole world not only listens, but applauds you.”
Both Ambani and Adani are from Gujarat, where Modi served as chief minister from 2001 until winning national office in 2014, partly on the back of his “Gujarat model” of investor-friendly policies.
Modi’s political opponents have criticised Adani over his past ties to the prime minister after Hindenburg last January accused his industrial group of “pulling the largest con in corporate history”. Adani denies Hindenburg’s allegations.
Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chair of Tata, said the conglomerate was about to conclude talks on a “huge” semiconductor fabrication plant in Dholera, Gujarat.
Toshihiro Suzuki president of Japan’s Suzuki Motor, one of India’s top-selling carmakers, said on Wednesday it planned to invest Rs350bn in a new plant in Gujarat that would begin making cars in 2028-29.
Local leaders are trying to make Gujarat a showcase for India’s push into emerging industries such as renewable energy and semiconductors.
Under India’s most powerful leader since late prime minister Indira Gandhi, Indian and foreign companies are taking pains to stay in favour with a government in New Delhi that enjoys increasing geopolitical clout.
Modi has been trumpeting his record on running the economy and raising India’s international profile ahead of the upcoming vote.
The BJP are expected to win a third successive victory in May, capitalising on a booming economy and sky-high ratings. But opposition parties are seeking to present a united front against what they say is Modi’s undermining of India’s democracy and secular foundations.
Posters publicising the event in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar and its biggest city Ahmedabad welcomed delegates to the “first Vibrant Gujarat of Amrit Kaal”, a Sanskrit phrase that means the “time of nectar” and which Modi has used to describe India’s current epoch.
In a speech to the event, Modi vowed to make India a developed economy by 2047, and said he expected the country, currently the world’s fifth-largest economy, to become one of the top three in the next few years.
“Experts can analyse this, but I guarantee that India will become the third-largest economy in the world,” he said.
Additional reporting by Jyotsna Singh in New Delhi
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