The Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) has been a leading economic light of the Gujarat Model. It was the flagship project of an “economic resurgence” that the Narendra Modi government unleashed after his re-election as state chief minister in December 2002. Unbridled industrialisation cloaked the stains of the 2002 communal riots, and for this, a home-grown company became its new face. But the GSPC was not Modi’s baby, for it had existed over 20 years before being selected to be the face of the Gujarat Model. A decade and a half later, it is symbolic of that model, and everything that is wrong with the hype—as also the myth—surrounding it. The GSPC has been a misadventure, and serves as a classic case of how political grandstanding can lead to financial disaster.
Time and again, the corporation was hauled up by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India over its cavalier attitude towards ventures that never paid off and for living beyond its means. Yet, the state ignored all criticism. The truth is that the GSPC not only never made money, it instead bled the exchequer. As losses spiralled out of control, Modi’s relocation to New Delhi as prime minister came handy: the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) bailed out the GSPC by buying out the latter’s stake in the Krishna-Godavari Basin project.
Grand Illusion charts out the GSPC’s growth since 2002, and summarises it thus: Modi’s pride, Gujarat’s embarrassment.