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The fact that his detractors tried to persistently target him, despite him prevailing in trials in courts and in public opinion, was resented by his support base. That not only helped consolidate his hold over them in the state, but also started the bandwagon of similar support nationwide.

It is a fact, not just an opinion, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi straddles India’s political firmament like a colossus. This is acknowledged by all, friend and foe, expert or novice. As he begins his 20th year in public life — he took oath as Gujarat’s chief minister for the first time this week 19 years ago — his ascendance and dominance is worth understanding better.

In 1987, when he joined the BJP, he had already made a name for himself as a tireless worker, quick on the uptake, making valuable contributions, and as a charismatic and strategic thinker. Nevertheless, as is all too well known, his debut as Gujarat’s chief minister was to quickly become a trial by fire, the kind few leaders survive.

No politician in independent India has been demonised in such a relentless, Goebbelsian manner as him, and none has withstood it all with such resilience and courage. Despite years of concerted attacks on him by the then-dominant mainstream media, his popularity only grew, his grip on both politics and governance only got firmer.

That ability to go beyond the circumstances in which he found himself has been a crucially important trait since his youth. From going past traditional familial constraints to wandering, exploring, seeking, and discovering his purpose, his is a classic journey that many young idealists fantasise about, but rarely dare to attempt.

The fact that his detractors tried to persistently target him, despite him prevailing in trials in courts and in public opinion, was resented by his support base. That not only helped consolidate his hold over them in the state, but also started the bandwagon of similar support nationwide.

A lesser man might have been content with that, perhaps even planned an extension of his entrenchment as Gujarat’s undisputed leader. Instead, Modi decided to, and succeeded in, transforming his image into that of Mr Development. It did not happen overnight, and it did not happen easily. He had to work against the tide of initial opposition from many quarters, not least of all significant leaders of industry and their associations. Slowly, but surely, he built a track record of decisiveness, of laying out the red carpet for investment, of out-of-the-box solutions for age-old bottlenecks like inconsistent power supply, and all that while avoiding the taint of corruption. Even as a CM he started acquiring a global reputation as a can-do leader.

That is not to say he gave up being the champion of the broadest section of the electorate, nor on his passion for a resurgent, modern India that also took pride in its ancient heritage. He has all along spoken out against the hypocrisy of those who represented what passed for secularism and liberalism in India, but made a mockery of that with their policies of appeasement, pandering to the fears and schisms in sections of society instead of trying to unite them. It is surely one of the great ironies of modern times that the person who marshalled the political will to bring about Triple Talaq reform in India was not from among those secularists and liberals, but one who has been unceasingly vilified by them.

The fact is, this prime minister has been just as staunch a reformer on a wide range issues, taking on established shibboleths. These include not just social changes, but also stunning advances on political and economic reforms that had long been given lip service by all but had also acquired the aura of being unachievable. The latest of these is the recent farm bills that have been advocated by virtually everyone, except perhaps far-left ideologues, for decades.

Looking back to the national political scenario a dozen years ago, it was obvious to many that Modi would almost inevitably lead the nation sooner or later. Even as the government of the day got ever more deeply mired in corruption scandals, infighting and palace intrigues, it continued to be blithely oblivious to the mood of the people. When the then prime minister, a member of a minority community himself, spoke of minorities having the first right on the nation’s resources, a tipping point was reached.

In the other corner stood a long-standing chief minister, exuding charisma, personal honesty, transparency, and good governance. But also unafraid to speak bluntly, against nepotism in politics, against cosseting sections of the population in ghettos, both physical and legislative, and was confidently asserting nationalism and an Indian renaissance. Born of this confluence of circumstances and preparation were such slogans as “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas,” and “minimum government, maximum governance.”

It is worth remembering that the long-entrenched elites he dislodged pushed back with a vehemence born from seeing their world evaporating before their eyes. They united to deny him early attempts at reform, such as on land acquisition, and, emboldened, thereafter opposed him tooth and nail on virtually every decision. They mocked those slogans and dubbed him a non-reformer.

And yet, reform he did, against all odds. The GST is arguably the single-biggest economic reform since Independence. And despite the persistent badmouthing of demonetisation by opponents, it triggered the transition to digitisation that made possible the large-scale monetary aid to hundreds of millions of Indians during this pandemic. The reset that he did with India’s response to cross-border terror attacks must also rank as immensely significant. In this time he has emerged as one of the most influential global leaders.

The second term has begun with a breathtaking shifting of gears, pushing through many long-pending, big-ticket reforms. And yet, while his opponents continue as if in a time warp, doubling down on their failed tactics, Narendra Modi keeps evolving, his best yet to come.

 

Author Name: Baijayant Jay Panda

Disclaimer:

This article was first published in The Indian Express

It is part of an endeavour to collect stories which narrate or recount people’s anecdotes/opinion/analysis on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi & his impact on lives of people

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Modi’s Human Touch in Work, Personal Interactions Makes Him The Successful Man He is Today : Japan K Pathak
October 20, 2021
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On October 7, Narendra Modi completed 20 years as the head of a government. For those of us in Gujarat, we have closely seen the rise of Narendra Modi and how he altered the trajectory of the state. People often ask what is the one thing that separates Modi. For me, it is the human touch, be it in work or personal interactions that has led to him scaling heights.

The 1980s were an interesting period in the politics of Gujarat. The Congress was comfortably ensconced in power, both at the Centre and in the state. Despite its lackluster governance, bitter factionalism and misplaced priorities, it was unimaginable that any other political party would come to power. Hardcore BJP supporters and workers were also uncertain.

It was in such times that Modi made a shift from RSS to a more political life in the BJP. He took up the challenge of preparing the party for the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation elections. One of his earliest steps was to integrate professionals with the BJP. The party machinery reached out to eminent doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers to join the electoral and political process. Similarly, Modi attached great importance to talking about governance issues in addition to only politics. He was constantly thinking of innovative ways of uplifting people and transforming lives.

As a communicator, Modi was always outstanding and more than that he was motivating. I recall this one particular speech at a medium sized gathering at Nirmal Party Plot in Ahmedabad’s Dharnidhar. For the first few minutes, he made people laugh through the witty comments he was known for. He then went on to ask the crowd — shall we continue joking or shall we talk about issues of national importance? I do not know what courage I developed at that time that I shouted – Both. On hearing me say that he turned to me and said – No, we cannot do both. He then talked at length about BJP’s governance vision, Article 370, the Shah Bano Case and more. The ideological clarity left me spellbound.

Those outside Gujarat would not know that Modi’s cassettes of speeches were very popular in urban Gujarat during early 1990s. These cassettes would include parts of a speech Modi would have given in some part of the state.
One more of his moving speeches came in 1994 just after the Latur earthquake. From the RSS Karyalaya in Ahmedabad, relief material and a few volunteers were sent to Latur. Modi gave an impromptu speech. After the speech, at least 50 people said they want to leave for Latur right away and that Modi’s words have had a great impact on their mind. He dissuaded them and said it is more important relief work reaches than people going, and that they must keep working for the nation where they are.

Narendra Modi’s connect with different sections was also linked to his ability to reach out to different sections of society. The world saw his ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ in 2013-2014 but I cannot forget how Modi forged a bond with different people over cups of tea by interacting with morning walkers. During the 1990s, I met him at Ahmedabad’s famous Parimal Garden where he was addressing a group of morning walkers. I could instantly see the connect. One of the doctors who knew me told me that similar interactions with Narendra Bhai were very helpful for him to understand current affairs.

There are two anecdotes, which to me show the humane side of Narendra Modi. One of them dates back to the early 2000s. Historian Rizvan Kadri and I were documenting some of the works of KeKa Shastri, a doyen of Gujarati literature and veteran of the Sangh eco-system. We had gone to meet him and one thing that struck me was his poor health. I took a photograph and got it sent to Narendra Modi’s office. At soonest, KeKa Shastri had a nurse who would attend to him.

The other relates to author Priyakant Parikh. He had a strong desire that his 100th work be launched only by Modi but the only glitch — he is immobile and homebound due to a major accident. I remember CM Modi going to Priyakant Parikh’s house at Ashram Road and launching his book. Gujarati literature circles were spellbound that a sitting CM would go to the drawing room of an ailing author and launch his book!

Two virtues that have stood him well, which would serve every political person well are – his sharp listening skills and his love for technology. His only regret about technology — that the art of remembering phone numbers was going!

Through his political career, party disciple has been paramount for Narendra Modi. Ambition is not known to him. No wonder the BJP has never lost a single election – be it Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha or local body, when Narendra Modi was given the task of coordinating the party strategy. The only time the BJP saw electoral setback was in the year 2000 and that was when Narendra Modi was outside the state.

As journalists, we have to meet several people but Narendra Modi told me when I was a young reporter that these must not be transactional relations but bonds that last a lifetime. Sometime around Holi in 1998 I happened to be in Delhi. Narendra Modi said something I will never forget. He said, “You must have 5,000 numbers in your telephone diary and you must have met them once and that too not in a formal way. You must know them just not as a source but as an acquaintance or friend.” I have not met 5,000 people as Narendra Modi asked me to but it did make me realise the importance of a human touch that is so important. Narendra Modi has it in plenty, which is why he is so successful.

 

Author Name: Japan K Pathak

Disclaimer:

This article was first published in News 18

It is part of an endeavour to collect stories which narrate or recount people’s anecdotes/opinion/analysis on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi & his impact on lives of people.