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Modi's spectacular tour de force

September 23, 2019 18:56 IST
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'Howdy Modi is an unforgettable celebration of the crowning of Modi as a world statesman,' says B S Raghavan, the distinguished civil servant.

U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a Howdy, Modi rally

IMAGE: US President Donald J Trump looks on as Prime Minister Narendra D Modi speaks at the Howdy Modi event in Houston, September 22, 2019. Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Reuters

How does one describe what is indescribable? The Howdy Modi Spectacular, for instance? I find myself at a loss for words.

At 93, I am one of the very few, or, maybe, the only one still surviving who had seen all the giants of India's freedom struggle, beginning from Mahatma Gandhi, at close quarters.

I have worked in various capacities with titans of the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru, and observed them not just as a public servant, but as a student of public administration, management and governance all my life.

I can say truthfully that in sheer leadership qualities, designing of public policies, result-orientation, power of expression, and making a public impact, Narendra Damodardas Modi beats them all.

I knew he would wow the mammoth 50,000 strong gathering at Houston, but I didn't expect that he would pull it off in such rivetingly superb style.

Indeed, it was a spirited performance, model of eloquence and clarity, and packed with substance which, at one stroke, accomplished several purposes.

Being from a public platform, watched by millions, in such a grand setting, and in the presence of Donald Trump, the president of the world's industrially, technologically and militarily the most powerful nation, it acquired an awesome majesty and binding force.

It invested Modi with the unmistakable stamp of a world leader, larger in stature than even Jawaharlal Nehru.

In fact, the foreign media have perforce noted that President Trump seemed like playing second fiddle to Modi and doing the warming-up act for him.

In the eyes of India's Opposition which is already in disarray, Modi must now be looking like an invincible, irresistible, political force, effectively inhibiting any tendency on its part to criticise his policies.

Indirectly, this may also help in establishing the government's authority and enforcing public peace and order.

It will also undoubtedly help bring the situation in Jammu and Kashmir to normalcy and in the adoption and implementation of policies for taking the country forward.


At the event, Modi reaffirmed commitment as the leader of the nation, and as the head of government, in a fuller and bolder measure, to the goals already set out by himself for the nation in 2014 and 2019.

This will serve as a stern warning to the government machinery, and the personnel manning it, that there will be zero tolerance for any omission or commission leading to failure to deliver on the tasks assigned or transgression of the norms laid down by the prime minister.

The emphasis placed on the empowerment of We, the People, by both Trump and Modi and its reinforcement by Modi by highlighting the vital importance he attached to 'ease of living' and elimination of corruption must have especially warmed the cockles of the hearts of every Indian.

If only 'ease of living', Modi's own brainchild, becomes a reality, it will liberate crores of Indians from the daily humiliations, harassments and hassles suffered at the hands of public servants and government officials at every level and vastly increase the pace of progress in every direction.

Modi's ability to think ahead of his times was once again evident in his extolling of data as the 'new oil' and the 'new gold' and the strong pitch he made for India as the harbinger of the fourth industrial revolution by virtue of its fast emerging leadership in data analytics and digital technology.

No major public address of his goes without a new signpost to a new opportunity and challenge, and true to this penchant of his, he held up digital India as 'India's new face to the world'.

He did not fail to point out the low-cost affordability of data in India, by quoting from memory and with effortless ease comparative figures from various studies.

The mammoth rally will certainly go down in the history of the two countries not for its size, nor even for the fact that for the first ever time the US president attended and was present till the end at a show on such an unprecedented scale and magnitude put on for an Indian prime minister by Indian Americans.

In retrospect, it would be seen, not just as a turning point, but as nothing short of a diplomatic revolution, in the history of US-India relations.

No elaborate political analysis is required to conclude that from the moment Modi and Trump came together on stage at Houston, those relations have taken on an entirely new complexion and dimension.

Never before in all their 70-year long history have the two countries so demonstratively and so openly pledged such unconditional, all-stops-pulled commitment to each other's interests.

It must have taken a lot of courage and deliberation on Modi's part to cast India's lot with the US, and more daringly than that, to stake all his political capital by going all out to canvass for Trump's victory at the 2020 presidential election, and that too before an audience of Indian Americans which was known in the past to be predominantly siding with the Democratic party.

Apparently, making his own shrewd calculations combined with a heavy dose of political intuition, Modi has decided that the new strategy was worth the high stakes, and this breath-taking political manoeuvre would decisively neutralise, if not nullify, the impact of the all-weather alliance of China and Pakistan. It will also enormously buttress his leverage in his dealings with China.

Seen in this light, Modi's jabs at Pakistan and invoking the prolonged roar of approval in Trump's presence signifying legitimisation and endorsement for the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and the other actions taken in respect of Jammu and Kashmir was a masterstroke.

His calls for a standing ovation to India's Parliamentarians for voting for his Kashmir policies and to President Trump for his unrelenting war on 'radical Islamic terrorism' (with no prize for guessing which country was blighting the world with it) almost elevated him to the status of a latter-day Chanakya. All this is bound to pay high dividends.

Altogether, Howdy Modi is an unforgettable celebration of the crowning of Modi as a world statesman whom perhaps no leader of political party in India will match or dare to take on and who, in the process, has assured for himself and the Bharatiya Janata Party a massive third term.

Good for India!

B S Raghavan is a former member of the Indian Administrative Service who has held leadership positions in the central and state governments, besides being a former US Congressional Fellow and policy adviser to the UN(FAO), and active in the fields of international relations, education and public affairs.

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