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Modi@1: Why Modi has to succeed

By Vivek Gumaste
Last updated on: May 21, 2015 20:52 IST
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Narendra Modi


Modi cannot afford to fail the Indian people and in return the Indian people cannot fail Modi. There is too much riding on this equation for failure to be an option. There is too much invested in this relationship for it to splinter, says Vivek Gumaste.

The glistening aureus has lost its sheen; the luminous dazzle of the diamond has dulled; and the giddy, mesmerising mantra of 'acche din' chanted into the receptive ears of an eager nation hungering for assertive captaincy and revolutionary change post Narendra Modi's unequivocal electoral triumph has become an indiscernible murmur with the passage of a year, if the foreboding naysayers that abound in our nation are to be believed.

But what is the hard truth? Have the effulgent promises of a land flowing with milk and honey evaporated under the scorching heat of a hot Indian summer? Has Prime Minister Modi proved to be a damp squib -- a conjuror sans substance? Or is this alarmist hue and cry an act of rank skullduggery; a fake illusion deliberately floated by his detractors to undermine his efforts to take India to greater heights?

An objective and mature assessment is warranted: One that evaluates his role as the chief cheerleader, his foreign policy, his economic achievements and his shortcomings.

The path to a nation's greatness begins with hope; the sparking of a nascent energy trapped within the souls of its citizens: A sentinel event vital to jolt people from their dormant slumber and galvanise them into purposeful action. That is the foremost duty of an exemplary leader and no one and I literally mean no one has exemplified this rare quality in recent times than Modi.

The positive energy, the optimism and enthusiasm that he has engendered across the diverse spectrum of the country and amongst its vast Diaspora is unparalleled: Full marks to him.

Bolstering his infectious ray of hope was a sound blueprint that touched upon areas that no previous prime minister had dared to address and charted out paths that no previous leader had the courage to explore.

With candid bluntness he told the people where our frailties lay; it was time to appreciate our faults and rectify them. We needed to sweep the dirt from our midst both literally and figuratively.

He was the first chief executive who drew our attention to the sorry state of hygiene in the nation. Swachch Bharat was a landmark pronouncement that roped in prominent personalities from all walks of life to cleanse India; toilet building -- a pressing necessity -- was prioritised. The clarion call to 'Make in India' incorporates both pragmatism and self- esteem: a boost to our confidence and capability.

On foreign policy, Modi merits a distinction. Trepidation regarding his performance in this area were entirely justified considering his limited experience. However, Modi has risen to the occasion, surprising even his most strident critics.

Criss-crossing the entire globe he has established a firm rapport with world leaders and transformed India's perception on the international stage, from a waffling non-entity to that of a powerful game-changer leading Time magazine to remark: 'As he nears his one-year anniversary in office on May 26, 2015, Modi has established himself as nothing less than a global political star. On the global stage, he's shown himself to be very sure-footed, very energetic,' says Nicholas Burns, a former US under secretary of state now based at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. (How Narendra Modi wants to Change India, Time, May 7).

A robust sustainable economy does not materialise in an instant by the wave of a magic wand. A brainstorming session at this stage is premature, naive and a redundant column filler -- one that hardly merits a serious point by point rebuttal. Suffice to say that as recently as March, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, called the country a 'bright spot' on an otherwise 'cloudy global horizon.'

Milan Vaishnav from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace remarks: 'It is hard for me to raise objections to much of anything they've done thus far...' He terms the government 'pro-business in orientation -- unlike its predecessor.'

Modi himself clarifies in the Time magazine article: 'He was elected to a five-year term, he says, and he has a plan for the whole period, not just the first year. "What we have done in the last one year is precisely as per that plan," he says. "And in the next four years, we have step-by-step measures that would unfold as we go along."

Concentration of power is a cliched charge that must be scrutinised further before validation. Consensus is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. An obsessive adherence to unanimous concurrence can be counterproductive resulting in ordinate delays and indecisiveness.

At times a leader must be able to bite the bullet and take strong decisive decisions relegating consensus to the back seat; non-constructive dissension and irrational opposition from unhinged detractors need to be brushed aside occasionally.

Having said that, one must sound a note of caution to the PM especially when such a charge emanates from one of his own: The Bharatiya Janata Party ideologue Arun Shourie: 'I think, today the Government of India and the party consists of three persons: They are Modi, Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah. The problem is this trimurti is not getting feedback from elsewhere. They have frightened not only their allies but their own party men.' (Headlines Today, May 1)

The rock-star type adulation that Modi evokes mixed in with the dubious influence of an oligarchy, perceived or real, is a dangerous cocktail. It can alienate a leader from the masses, make him oblivious to the reality of his surroundings and eventually lead to his downfall. Modi needs to allay this perception, sooner rather than later.

Coming to the question of religious persecution including controversies like ghar wapasi and church attacks, let me categorically state the perception of intolerance is an illusion wherein normal aberrations of society are being given a diabolical slant and exaggerated to paint them as harbingers of a dangerous slide into extreme religious fanaticism. In short, it is a campaign of unsubstantiated demonisation. (See: Anti-Christian acts: The myth and reality.)

Nevertheless, Modi has chosen to address this issue in a forthright manner: 'Wherever an individual view might have been expressed with regard to a particular minority religion, we have immediately negated that. So far as the government is concerned, there is only one holy book, which is the Constitution of India. My government will not tolerate or accept any discrimination based on caste, creed and religion.' (Time)

In summary, Modi gets 110 per cent on leadership and an A plus in all other areas. With regards to economic reforms he cannot be faulted or lauded. It would be unfair to mark an answer sheet of 100 questions after purveying only 20 of them. He still can get an A plus.

More importantly, one needs to realise that the destiny of a nation is not determined by cold, dry statics alone. There is an intangible element: An X factor.

Rarely there comes a moment in a nation's history when the stars align to unleash a powerful positive force and this is such a time.

Let us banish the doomsday soothsayers to the dark caves where they belong.

Let us banish the unhealthy spectre of pessimism that clouds our minds and embrace this golden opportunity with passion, positivity and unanimity.

History will be unforgiving and unrelenting if we stumble at this crucial juncture.

Modi cannot afford to fail the Indian people and in return the Indian people cannot fail Modi. There is too much riding on this equation for failure to be an option. There is too much invested in this relationship for it to splinter.

For in it lies the potential to bring to fruition 'India's tryst with destiny' -- a prophecy that our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru enunciated nearly 68 years: 'Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.'

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