Monday, February 3, 2014

Narendra Modi: Mr. Out-of- the-Box

Vinay Sahasrabuddhe

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley recently observed that running a country is different from running a state. There certainly can't be any dispute about that. But in the case of Narendra Modi, crores of Indians seem confident he can manage the nation's affairs with as much dexterity as in Gujarat.

This confidence springs from several factors. The most important of them all is his innovative approach and creative thinking, and that he has risen from the ranks. His elevation is highly reassuring for those who are frustrated and have lost hope in Indian democracy’s ability to deliver.

It is primarily to them that the BJP has given a strong signal that the party values ability and rewards skills.

In a largely dynasty-based political party canvas, the selection of Modi marks a refreshing change, and provides a ray of hope in an otherwise frustrating polity with hardly any internal democracy.

That pressure from grass-root level party workers, hastened his anointment should encourage political workers of every hue as it underscores the importance of ideology-driven party cadres and how much their opinion matters.

Harold Laski, renowned British political thinker once said that a true leader leads the masses and refuses to be led by the masses. For a state chief minister who has won three elections, back to back, without succumbing to populist pressures, to get the party’s nomination largely because of the cadre-sentiments is noteworthy.

What's the secret of Modi’s popularity amongst the NextGen voters? What makes him stand apart? Notwithstanding his image as a stubborn and inflexible leader, how is he able to win the hearts of people from all walks of life? From where does he gather courage to turn his back on populist measures?

The answer lies in his style of governance.  The strength of Narendra Modi is in his courage of conviction and purity of purpose. Nationalism, as he had pointed out several times is his ideology.

Besides, unlike several established politicians who are insecure, and scared of losing the comforts they are accustomed to, Modi is free from cravings for personal aggrandisement, which saw him have the strength to say “Neither do I indulge in corruption, nor would I allow others to do so” (hun khato nathi, ane khavane deto nathi). 

It’s the other part of the Modi mantra - Innovation – that has attracted even more interest. In every state we have water canals and most of our states are facing energy shortage. But it was Modi who first thought of covering canals with solar energy panels, thereby preventing vapourisation and generating solar power.

Again, in the era of Internet, with the book reading culture on the wane, Modi sensing the danger of diminishing reading habits, launched a campaign called Vanche Gujarat (Gujarat Reads), and himself went from school to school to promote book reading. Whether its infrastructure or education, urban transport or agriculture, Modi’s creative thinking covers all aspects of governance.

The Modi-mantra is minimum government and maximum governance. His government has entrusted the job of rural water management to villagers, mainly women.

Notably, his emphasis on greater participation of people also has helped him shun populism. Instead, he insists on educating the people.

A decade ago at the historic border village of Dholavira while inaugurating a reconstructed township for the quake-affected, he told the large gathering of villagers up front that it was their duty to pay bills on time.

Even when he was told that bills do not reach in time, his homespun logic was this: “While traveling in a bus, don't you go up to the bus conductor and get your ticket? If bills do not reach you in time, enquire; but pay you must!”

He introduced an innovative imprest fund scheme for private rural maternity homes to enable them to pay travel charges to the expectant mothers, successfully reducing the mother mortality rate. 

For farmers, confused, due to lack of timely guidance and counseling, he introduced an Annual Soil Health Card scheme that greatly helped them improve their farm produce. Recently, when the paucity of teachers afflicted

As part of Gujarat government’s efforts for preventing school dropouts, he embarked on an ambitious e-recruitment of teachers. Within a record 30 days, as many as 28,000 teachers had been hired through video interviews. Carried out with utmost transparency, there was zero corruption.

Again, as I was told; every new police station building that is coming up in Gujarat is now equipped with several new features. All such police stations are now energy-self-dependent. Moreover, all of them are now housing a library-cum-reading room, a crèche for the kids of especially women police persons as also a gymnasium. 

To inculcate a sense of belonging and an attitude of serving the people, Modi introduced a karma yogi training campaign in which over two lakh government employees participated. Other experiments included a chintan baithak,  which meant brainstorming with departmental officials at the beginning of every financial year.
Little question then, that Modi has become a Mr. Out of the Box thinker, with innovation and creative governance as his hallmarks. When people are fed up with politics that bring no change that cannot deliver under leaders who seem to be clueless about the path forward Modi, comes across as an icon of performance who can step into the void.

- The author is in charge of BJP’s good governance cell and is also member, National Executive, of the BJP.  He can be reached on