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Modi: Neither Monster, Nor Messiah!
by Dr. Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share

Within a couple of days by the end of the BJP national executive meeting in Goa starting on June 7, 2013 Mr. Narendra Modi may be declared as chairman of the party’s election campaign committee or perhaps even as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. In either event it will be perceived with near certainty that he will become eventually the BJP prime ministerial candidate. This prospect fills his supporters with glee and his detractors with alarm. One section thinks that his ascent to the post will bring deliverance. The other section believes it denotes disaster. Who is right?

Seldom has an individual polarized public opinion thus.

A combination of circumstances led to such division. India stands poised between enormous potential and possible collapse. A new assertive generation yearns for change. This is accompanied by large sections of the corporate world in the global economy desperate for India to emerge as a good investment market. It is in this context that Mr. Modi surfaced to become the hope for change. His stint in Gujarat as Chief Minister convinced the corporate world that he is a muscular version of Dr. Manmohan Singh. He will do everything required to promote economic growth. Undoubtedly the very powerful big business media went a long way to promote the image and prospects of Mr. Modi. Equally there is a considerable section fearful of Mr. Modi’s rise on account of the Gujarat riots in 2002. It is feared that he will target the minorities and promote communalism.

What would Mr. Modi actually deliver were he to become Prime Minister?

Consider Mr. Modi’s attributes dispassionately. It is believed by his supporters that Mr. Modi as prime ministerial candidate will ensure a massive victory at the polls. They also believe that as Prime Minister he will rid the nation of corruption and misgovernance. His opponents believe that as Prime Minister he will unleash a reign of terror and communal discrimination that could destroy national unity. Who is right?

The answer is that both are wrong. The significance of Mr. Modi has been blown out of all proportion due to past events and the peculiar circumstances prevailing in the nation.

Assess first the fears of his detractors. Mr. Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots was no worse than of Rajiv Gandhi in Delhi during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Both the Delhi and the Gujarat riots targeting two different sections of the minorities were sparked by an event that aroused deep emotion. It is a different matter that on both occasions actual reality might have greatly differed from public perception. It remains a matter of debate the extent to which Rajiv Gandhi and Narendra Modi were personally affected by the prevailing public emotion to allow unchecked the rioting that followed. The bottom line is that on both occasions bad judgment was displayed in running the administration. And on both occasions after the riots there was evidently no communal hangover clouding either Rajiv Gandhi or Narendra Modi.

Mr. Modi has clearly shown that his political ambition overrides any ideological commitment. His single minded devotion to success permits him to switch from Hindutva to economic growth with consummate ease. In other words, Mr. Modi is neither moral nor immoral. He is amoral and is ruthlessly committed to success. Therefore fears of communal discrimination under his governance may be misplaced. Democratic compulsions would preclude that.

Next, consider the sanguine hopes of his supporters. They pin their hopes on his potential as a vote getter and on his effectiveness as an administrator. Let us consider these in that order. Mr. Modi is articulate and an orator. He has an imposing personality. These attributes make for a good communicator. But how much impact does individual personality exert on electoral results without regard to other factors? Very little, one fears. One thinks that there would be little dispute that during the last one century the greatest demagogue was Adolph Hitler. Yet in elections he never succeeded in obtaining more than 50 percent of the popular vote. Mr. Modi’s strength lies in the enthusiasm he has created among his party’s workers. That is undoubtedly an asset that will help the party to perform in the polls. But how much popular support will the BJP acquire from voters given the party’s policies and image? Media hype and the enthusiasm of workers has created a legend about Mr. Modi’s vote getting prowess. It has yet to be proven outside Gujarat. Mr. Modi campaigned in both Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka assembly polls. He made no visible impact in either state.

Next, consider Mr. Modi’s commitment to principled governance and his potential for ending corruption. He is the head of the Gujarat Cricket Board and a member of the BCCI Governing Council. Yet in the raging controversy related to match fixing and corruption in the IPL cricket overseen by BCCI he has remained a mute and impotent spectator. Does that signify a leader who will end corruption across the nation?

There are other aspects of Mr. Modi’s performance that attract attention. He waxed eloquently against the government for its response to the Chinese incursions in Ladakh. He berated the government for weakness before the enemy. But the same Mr. Modi is ardently wooing the Chinese for enhanced trade, is teaching Mandarin to school children in Gujarat, has visited Beijing several times, and is the declared favourite of the Chinese Embassy in Delhi. Does Mr. Modi seriously believe that border security can be compartmentalized from trade and cultural ties while dealing with a foreign power? If so, he is dangerously naïve.

Another disturbing trait displayed by Mr. Modi is his sense of insecurity which no real leader should have. His treatment of his colleague Mr. Sanjay Joshi who was hounded out of Gujarat revealed that. Currently, media is full of reports that he telephoned BJP President Mr. Rajnath Singh to complain against Mr. LK Advani for praising the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister in excess of the praise showered on him. Since no party spokesperson contradicted this report it may be taken to be correct. After his phone call, Mr. Rajnath Singh and the Madhya Pradesh CM issued statements to mollify Mr. Modi. Perhaps BJP workers perceive the use of such authority by Mr. Modi as a sign of strength. It reveals not strength but brittle vulnerability arising from a sense of insecurity. If Mr. Modi aspires to be a really successful national leader he will have to eschew such insecurity.

In conclusion therefore it may be seen that Mr. Modi has the superficial attributes of leadership. He is a good communicator, an efficient executive and a decisive politician. But to exploit these attributes as a Prime Minister he has to acquire the depth and vision required for a real game-changing leader of a billion people. Ultimately, good governance relies on policy and not on mere personality. It is time for realism. The impact of a single individual should not be exaggerated. Mr. Narendra Modi is neither a monster nor a messiah. He is a politician with attributes that have yet to be exploited.

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More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri
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Comments on this Article

Comment Modi may not the answer to all problems in India, but he is definitely better than other wannabe PMs.
I would not agree to your point that Modi is a muscular version of Manmohan Singh. The only version of MMS we know is incompetent, imprudent .....

Rather than Modi it is actually MMS who happens to be the most "hyped" economist of India political class.
Having said that India is definitely heading for UPA 3. The sad state of the world's largest democracy.

06/09/2013 23:21 PM

Comment We are in a transitional period which can lead us or mislead us. It is up to us to get involved in this process with an unbiased approach.
[Indian Journalists Group - Linkedin]

Vasan K S S
06/09/2013 15:23 PM

Comment In continuation to the previous comment, in my opinion:

What Modi will do if he becomes the PM (of course it will also depend upon which parties and how many parties support him)********

He will get the central government back to work. The top bureaucrats will work hard on the top agendas set by him. The government machinery will be back to normal. Journalists will look for reports based on new developments in govt offices.

Corruption and nonsense in top government offices will reduce because the PM will focus on results.

India will see many ambitious projects being taken up by the govt, many of them will create news in international media. Indians will feel proud about these projects.

Job opportunities will increase due to increase in industrial growth and balancing govt policies.

Country will see enormous growth in infrastructure, urban population may feel India at par with populous cities in Europe and Asia (populous places with world class infrastructure)

Possibility that Modi will next eye an elevated international status, which may push Indian govt take strong stand in international matters. Chinese may regret their favor to Modi in the past.

The talks about India becoming a world power both in terms of military capability and economic capability will start again.

He will get opponent voices shunned, sometimes ruthlessly. Rather than weakness, this should be attributed to the natural instinct to punish someone. It is likely that he will emerge tallest leader in the country within 2-3 years of taking the post, similar to what Indira Gandhi did.

Definitely, political equations will change if Mr. Modi becomes PM and remains there for at least 3 years.

What Modi will NOT do if he becomes the PM************

Mr. Modi is not likely to touch root causes of the problems in our system, such as removing Cabinet and PMO’s control over independent commissions to investigate corruption and other illegalities (such as Lokpal, CBI, CVC etc.).

Mr. Modi will not like to recognize that the President rules bureaucratic offices and various commissions.

Mr. Modi may not bring long pending judicial reforms, however he may bring police reforms.

Mr. Modi may refrain from dealing with sensitive but important issues such as promotion of National Language - Hindi at the expense of English, preserving and promoting Indian culture, reforms in school education and syllabus, control on entertainment media that are damaging day and night the moral values of the society and also damaging Indian culture by and large.

Mr. Modi may not take those important actions that are required to make Indians proud of their past and rich heritage. He may not do those important things that are needed to connect the people with their roots. He may still fail to connect India with Bharat (that Mr. Vajpayee dreamed about and mentioned several times as on the goals of NDA govt). Hence, the western powers may take a reprieve here that the India they feared in 70s as a civilization and nation with potential to dominate whole world again would try to adjust itself to become western in nature.

Mr. Modi may not bring a long lasting change in the system that prevails on its own in absence of a strong authoritative regime. Which means, after his departure from the authoritative post, the bugs may start eating the system again.

Mr. Modi may not bring right balance between Industrialists and the common man. It is likely that Industrialists will be favored through backdoor while common man will not get enough pie that he deserves.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
06/07/2013 07:43 AM

Comment MrPuri - Balanced analysis to calm those who doesn't like Modi at the same time putting a lid on higher expectations of his supporters.

Let us look at the reasons dispassionately why Modi needs to take charge of BJP.

The party is woefully drifting and many neutrals have correctly identified that BJP is actually the B team of Congis and these people are not far off in their estimates.Issues like corruption, terrorism,inflation,inter state relations,infrastructure development,Food security bill,NCTC the current BJP leadership consisting of sushma,advani,jaitley and the cabals surrownding them like ananthkumar,ravirudi,ravishankarprasad have exactly not articulated clearly what the party stand is.Waxing and waning is not going to create confidence in the minds of people like me who want the opposition to state clearly what they think on the subject and the alternatives are.

Modi has let the world know atleast in some of these subjects what he thinks.His recent statement on NCTC is spot on.He is not one of those idiots who keep saying" on the one hand and on the other hand.Finally there will be no hand."!!

In his state governance, he has addressed illiteracy,improving quality of education,water,power and many more.What essentially required in rating a politician is what he actually does rather than what he says.India is full of idiotic loud mouthed know alls who cannot even do simple things.

Apart from administration, Modi knows quite a bit about rest of India. if you care to spend some time on what he says ( there are many examples in youtube, googletalk) he clearly comes off as a politician who is working hard to learn as much about this country as is possible.Name me one alternative politician who has clout with the public who can inspire more number of people in India than this man at the moment? If you have alternative/s, we can discuss.

In my opinion based on what Modi has done as a chief minister of Gujarat, he has every right to have an amibition to lead India as a PM.He deserves the chance considering the crooks to whom we have given power in Delhi.

The vacillation of the learned have been the curse of India.They keep looking for that perfect diamond which alas does not exist. At the moment Modi is the perfect bet for India.You and me as spectators should give him the chance.

06/06/2013 08:56 AM

Comment Mr. Rajendra Puri= You are right. Narendra Modi is neither monster nor
messiah. He is simply a common man. He is neither you nor me, he is NaMo.
He has a sense of weather cock. He will work according to time he lives in to
achieve his goal. Goal was chief minister post, that he has achieved. Now, as you and I think, is to lead the country that is BHARAT..He will achieve his goal,
that you and I understand...

pranlal sheth
06/06/2013 08:42 AM

Comment Dear Sir,

I am happy that my opinion about Mr. Modi remains same as before and aligned to the opinion expressed in thie article - I fully agree, as I mentioned in comment to another article before -

"The so called Gujarat model is more favorable to businessmen than 'aam aadmi'. And no magic should be expected if Mr. Modi comes to power. There are more fundamental changes required in system than Mr. Modi would bring even if he gets 2/3rd majority."


The roles and responsibilities of a PM are much larger than those of a CM. Can not say that a proven and successful CM can make it to a good PM directly.

But, all said I believe there is no better choice at present and democracy is all about eliminating worse options and take whatever is left !!

Mr. Modi, if gets to the PM's post, will bring a much better and stronger governance as compared to the UPA govt. Although, such a government is not likly to bring all the changes required, but it will certainly stop our fall and prevent collapse of the system - which in turn may cause a series of changes, reforms and remedies later sometime in future.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
06/06/2013 06:51 AM

Comment The National and International media is exposing everyday, the lack of Governance and political will of the UPA to pull the country out of the quagmire it has got it into.

A few years back, a foreign journalist commenting about the sporadic supply of electricity in Delhi suggested that putting a monkey at the switch would do a far better job than the current staff.

Considering the present mess in India, even a layman could run the country better than the present Government. Let us not underestimate Narendra Modi.This Gutsy man is most likely the person India needs now. Nobody is perfect, and he too will realise his shortcomings, and not repeat any perceived mistakes he has made in the past.

I, sitting in Canada can only pray that someday the world will discuss the positive achievements of India instead of the present Corruption and Scams.

06/06/2013 06:48 AM

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