Oct 19, 2008 at 23:38
Let me begin with a set of disclosures: I have perhaps written more articles against Modi and his handling of the post-Godhra scenario than most people have; I have called him a modern-day Hitler and have always said that Godhra shall remain an enduring blemish not just on him but on India's political class. I still believe that what happened in Gujarat during the Godhra riots is something we as a nation will pay a heavy price for. But the fact is that time has moved on. As has Narendra Modi. He is not the only politician in India who has been accused of communalism. It is strange that the whole country venerates the Congress Party as the secular messiah but it was that party that presided over the riots in 1984 in which over 3,500 Sikhs died: thrice the number killed in Gujarat.
The fact of the matter is that there is no better performer than Narendra Modi in India's political structure. Three weeks ago, I had gone to Ahmedabad to address the YPO and I thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up with Modi. I called him the evening before and I was given an appointment for the very day I was getting into Ahmedabad. And it was not some official meeting but instead one at his house. As frugal as the man Modi is.
And this is something that the Gandhis and Mayawatis need to learn from Modi. There were no fawning staff members; no secretaries running around; no hangers on…just the two of us with one servant who was there serving tea. And what was most impressive was the passion which Modi exuded. The passion for development; the passion for an invigorated Gujarat; the passion for the uplifting the living standards of the people in his state and the joy with which he recounted simple yet memorable data-points. For instance, almost all of the milk consumed in Singapore is supplied by Gujarat; or for that matter all the tomatoes that are eaten in Afghanistan are produced in Gujarat or the potatoes that Canadians gorge on are all farmed in Gujarat. But it was industry that was equally close to his heart.
It was almost like a child, that he rushed and got a coffee table book on GIFT: the proposed Gujarat Industrial City that will come up on the banks of the Sabarmarti: something that will put the Dubais and the Hong Kongs of this world to shame. And while on the Sabarmati, it is Modi who has created the inter-linking of rivers so that now the Sabarmati is no longer dry.
He then spoke about how he was very keen that Ratan Tata sets up the Nano plant in Gujarat: he told me how he had related the story of the Parsi Navsari priests to Ratan and how touched Ratan was: the story is, when the Navsari priests, (the first Parsis) landed in Gujarat, the ruler of Gujarat sent them a glass of milk, full to the brim and said, there was no place for them: the priests added some sugar to the milk and sent it back saying that they would integrate beautifully with the locals and would only add value to the state.
Narendra Modi is clearly a man in a hurry and he has every reason to be. There is no question in any one's mind that he is the trump card for the BJP after Advani and Modi realises that. People like Rajnath Singh are simply weak irritants I would imagine. He also believes that the country has no apolitical strategy to counter terrorism and in fact he told me how he had alerted the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the NSA about the impending bomb blasts in Delhi and they did not take him seriously. And then the September 13 blasts happened! It was this resolve of Modi's that I found very admirable. There is a clear intolerance of terrorism and terrorists which is evident in the way the man functions; now there are many cynics who call it minority-bashing but the truth of the matter is that Modi genuinely means business as far as law and order is concerned.
I left Modi's house deeply impressed with the man as Chief Minister: he was clearly passionate and what's more deeply committed. When I sat in the car, I asked my driver what he thought of Modi and his simple reply was Modi is God. Before him, there was nothing. No roads, no power, no infrastructure. Today, Gujarat is a power surplus state. Today, Gujarat attracts more industry than all the states put together. Today, Gujarat is the preferred investment destination for almost every multi-national and what's more, there is an integrity that is missing in other states.
After I finished talking to the YPO (Young President's Organisation) members, I asked some of them very casually, what they thought of Modi. Strangely, this was one area there was no class differential on. They too said he was God.
But what they also added very quickly was if India has just five Narendra Modis, we would be a great country. I don't know if this was typical Gujarati exaggeration or a reflection of the kind of leadership India now needs! There is however, no question in my mind, that his flaws apart, Narendra Modi today, is truly a transformational leader! And we need many more like him!
The original author, Suhel Seth is the managing partner, Founder of Consultancy Counselage India.