THOSE who have followed Narendra Modi’s remarkable career from simple RSS pracharak to one of India’s most powerful chief ministers believe that the Gujarat helmsman cannot be tied down to his home state for long. Last week, there was irrefutable evidence of Modi’s larger ambitions. Addressing apublic meeting in Vadodara, he charged the Centre with virtually looting states, to illustrate which he said that while his state contributed Rs 40,000 crores in taxes to the Centre, it received less than 2.5 per cent of its contribution in return. “Let us not take from each other for ayear and see how it works”, he said with the air of aman with no doubts at all in his mind. To be sure, it wasn’t astray remark aimed at whipping up public passion. It was acarefully calibrated, well- orchestrated and precisely- timed statement, about not just Gujarati pride, but pride of the states. The kind which has now become aModi trademark since his victory last year. He has an insatiable appetite for innovation. Recently, he joined other NDA chief ministers in petitioning the Prime Minister against discrimination of the states by the Finance Ministry. But while the rest met Singh, handed over the petitions and headed back home, Modi chose to up the ante and taunted the Centre. What followed wasn’t surprising. The Congress walked into his trap saying Modi should be charged with sedition and arrested, though Idoubt they were serious because there is nothing Modi would have loved more. What makes Modi different from other chief ministers is that what he says is what he thinks. One of his favourite lines is “good politics and good economics can co- exist” and it is not something even his party seniors agree with. Take the Indo- US Nuclear Deal. While the BJP’s opposition to the deal is known, Modi told the Centre his party will consider supporting it if the government takes it into confidence on all aspects of the deal. Such statements are the prerogative of LK Advani or Jaswant Singh, but Idoubt if the thought crossed his mind that that he may have extended his brief. At arecent FICCI meeting, even Congress chief ministers lined up to pat his back after he invited the governments of landlocked states like Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, UP etc, which are all large importers and exporters, to set up dedicated ports along the vast Gujarat coastline. “You save time and money by not having to depend on existing congested ports and Iearn revenue from you. It’s awin for all of us”. Last year, at an India Today meeting attended by many chief ministers, he called on states to adopt the best practices of other states. “Gujarat can learn from Kerala about literacy and tourism and we can show them the way on industrial development. We will take lessons even from Marxists in West Bengal”, he said and added “if there is something positive we can absorb from them”. Of course some things never change. He remains steadfast about Hindutva and against pandering to minorityism, but no retributive hate campaigns are seen these days. On the contrary, diplomats of Western Europe who denied him visas in the early part of the decade now regularly visit Gandhinagar to catch up with him. Modi is finally getting accustomed to being wooed.