Well, I feel 70-year-old Narender Damodar Modi is the most credible prime minister India has ever had. And am sure this sweeping statement of mine will certainly draw criticism as it hurts Nehru-Gandhi dynasts and their loyalists. Few may even find fault with my statement countering; how dare I say ignore either Lal Bahadur Shashtri or Dr Manmohan Singh?
And, they are right, too! I have no doubt in my mind that Shastri ji was the most honest soul, but he had very brief innings and it’s difficult to judge as he had not tested times. As far as Dr Manmohan Singh is considered, I may agree to certain extent that he is personally not corrupt. Yet, how can he still remain Mr Clean, when he presided over the Cabinet which was the worst corrupt govt in Republic Indian history?
Contrary to this, many others who had opportunity to serve as prime ministers of either the Congreess or non-Congress like VP Singh or PV Narasimha Rao or BJP’s own Atal Behari Vajpayee and Dr Manmohan Singh, all had their own “cup of woes” in some form or the other, as far as graft cases are concerned.
That apart, even if one wishes to peep through the governments and its heads ever since independence beginning with Jawaharlal Nehru, who had not occupied the highest post on his own popularity or strength. He was thrust upon by Mahatma Gandhi, as he considered him as his political heir. Thus, he rewarded Nehru the crown, overlooking the support that was being enjoyed by his counterpart, Sardar Patel. Well, Nehru might have enjoyed the charisma, but was not a great administrator.
However, his contributions on record like setting up public sector units or building irrigation projects, in his bid to make India self-reliant, cannot be ignored. Still, many of his critics of his era as well the present feel that his wrong doings such as handing over on platter the UN-seat to China, or handling of the 1962 war, or unsettling the troubles in J&K, so on and so forth, continue to haunt him. In other words he was the Gadhi’s liability gift to India.
His daughter, Indira Gandhi, too might have the charisma, a sizable part of which she inherited from her father. That apart, her decisive leadership as the first woman PM of India also contributed to her charm. Yet, her greed to continue in power by hook or hook and the imposition of President’s Rule indeed made her the most unpopular PM. She deserves all praise for banks nationalization as well as the 1971 war against Pakistan to create Bangladesh on the East. She remains as‘Good and Bad PM, in our history pages.
And, as far as Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the rightist BJP is concerned, he is no less charismatic PM than his dynast predecessors – Nehru and India. Besides his achievements like Pokhran-2 and the Golden Quadrilateral, his inimitable oratory and poetry too contributed to his appeal. Ironically, his government too could escape graft charge with the alleged ‘Kargil Coffin scam’. However, post-Vajpayee, it can be reasonably argued that the era of popular leadership is over. The millennial voter of the 21st century is more business-like in their approach. This approach demands good intent coupled with honest and intelligent efforts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi satisfies these criteria completely. Add to this, his innovative ideas for good governance and his mind-boggling ability to work extraordinarily hard. He has taken the leadership discourse in India beyond charisma.
Since May 2014, PM Modi has established several things. He has shown that non-Congress governments, even after remaining in power for a full term, can successfully renew and improve on their popular mandate. He is known not just for his decisiveness but also for a strong political acumen that was a result of his courage of conviction. Driven by a strong sense of purpose, he has tried to restore the centrality of being result-oriented, something the millennial generation values greatly. He reaches out to the electorate effectively, establishes a strong popular connect and earns a mandate. He then moves ahead, unwaveringly, taking decisions in the national interest, without unduly worrying about their popularity.
To his credit are not just big economic reforms like GST and replacing the Planning Commission with the Niti Aayog, or political reforms like the abrogation of Article 370 and the CAA, but also several seemingly small but effective governance reforms. Advancing the schedule of the Budget Session of Parliament, he seamlessly ensured adequate time for the full utilisation of budgeted funds. Early this year, his government created a new Union Territory merging Daman-Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, an apparently small step that facilitated administrative convenience and huge financial savings. Similarly, converting bamboo from a notified forest produce to a farm produce also had a huge impact as several lakhs of farmers who have benefited from this.
His courage of conviction is evident in many of his decisions. When it came to gender issues and atrocities against women, he minced no words in asking parents to be mindful of the late-night outdoor activities of boys and not just put restrictions on girls. Again, a year ago, he openly cautioned Indians about the increasing population, asking young couples to think of the prospects of their kids before starting a family.
Recently, while addressing educationists, he bluntly observed that in our country, so far we were only taught about “what to think” instead of “how to think”, and the NEP is set to change this. Decisions like emphasis on education in the mother tongue without imposing any language on any group, carving out a separate quota for the economically backward and allowing lateral entry for non-IAS personnel in government are examples of his balanced approach.
Modi is also a great innovator. He introduced the crowd-sourcing of ideas and solutions through the aggressive use of social media. Thanks to him, India is rapidly moving upwards on the global innovation index. Hackathons are now a routine annual national activity. His ideas like the Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat programme to ensure emotional integration or Mann ki Baat for direct communication with the masses or introducing Swachhta Ranking for cities and towns are a few examples of his out-of-the-box thinking. Also remarkable is his decision to convert the Nehru Memorial and Library at Teen Murti in Delhi into a museum for all prime ministers — a decision in the spirit of democracy.
Unfortunately, the discarded Opposition, especially the Congress and Communist parties have no respect for established Constitutional bodies like the Supreme Court or the Election Commission. Their frustration is loud and clear. Their efforts to put spokes in every good initiative of Modi government for people’s welfare, or improving economy or protecting country’s borders, the destructive Opposition doesn’t like him to succeed and emerge India as a super power. These are not just mere allegations, but established facts.
Whether the Shaheenbagh road blockade or now the farmers agitation blocking national highways for the past two months. Even after the Supreme Court’s intervention in appointing a four-member panel to hold talks with representatives of farmers unions or later the Modi government’s decision to put the four Farm Laws on hold for one and half years. How can they still go ahead with their ‘tractor rally’ plan on January 26 in Delhi streets and disrupt India’s Republic Day celebrations? Should a small group of farmers be allowed to hold the country for ransom?
Yet, Modi has shown maturity swallowing the abuses hurled at him time and again, which shows his grit and commitment to save Indian democracy and still delivers what he wants. And, one of the most significant contributions to his credit is snatching representative democracy from the jaws of cynicism. Rarely does one see a leader, pilloried by previous regimes, assailed by the media and ignored by academia — being rewarded by the people for his performance. That is truly moving beyond charisma. Hence, I call him “People’s Pride and Opposition Envy”. Am I wrong?