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What Kind of PM Will Modi Be?

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By Vivian Fernandes [ Published Date: April 15, 2014 ]

By Vivian Fernandes

If one goes by opinion polls, BJP’s candidate Narendra Modi is set to move into South Block, which is the office of India ‘s Prime Minister. After three rounds of polling, NDTV news channel has given the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance a clear majority of 275, three more than the half-way mark. Presuming that Modi indeed gets the top job, what kind of a Prime Minister will he make?

In my book, Modi: Leadership, Governance and Performance, I have offered some insights. I have said that Modi is perhaps the only ruling leader with a philosophy of governance. In a 2008 interview he told me that ‘development to be a movement. ‘ He went on to elaborate that ‘unless and until you gets people’s participation you cannot give a result.’ Speaking at a function in 2013 organized by ThinkIndia Foundation, with which I am associated, Modi said the feeling of ‘mujhe kya, mera kya,’ (meaning, why should I bother) should give way to a sense of ownership, which comes from belonging.

Modi is a compulsive campaigner. Being a rather lonely person, he likes to be among people. He derives legitimacy and authority from them, like former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He also runs his administration in campaign mode. There are drives every year for Nirmal (sanitary) Gujarat, Nirogi Balak (disease-free child), Kanya Kelawani (girl’s education), Shala Praveshotsav (school enrolment), Krishi Mahotsav ( agricultural outreach) and Gunotsav (school quality improvement drive). This is Modi’s way of keeping his administration grounded. The interesting part is that these drives are not confined to particular departments. They are administration-wide campaigns, in which all officers have to participate. This is necessary to make government cohesive and break down silo thinking or narrow departmentalism.

Similarly, every year all IAS officials, about 250 of them, meet for a two-day conclave called Chintan Shibir. Retreats or off-sites are a tool used very often by corporates to create bonding among staff. In government this is rarely done. In the Chintan Shibirs there is no protocol. Anyone can sit anywhere. Lunch or tea queues cannot be broken. The idea is to break hierarchy, so that people create informal networks which they can use to improve the efficiency of administration. The Shibirs are structured and about six themes are discussed. Best practices from other states are also presented. Another innovation is Swantha Sukhay. All officials down to the taluka level are encouraged to take up one cause dear to their heart and to the public benefit, with the discretion they have in use of funds, for their own satisfaction. For the Chief Minister, the ambition of a Swantha Sukhay programme is a measure of that official’s motivation. Several initiatives like Jan Seva Kendras or citizen service centres (which began in Baroda as one-day governance, drawing inspiration from cricketer Irfan Pathan’s stellar performance in a one-day cricket match series in Pakistan), the kitchen gardens attached to Baroda anganwadis to provide green leafy veggies to anaemic new mothers and under-six children, or the conversion of Ahmedabad’s polluting autorickshaws to compressed gas, began as Swantha Sukhay programmes.

Modi is also very good at execution and organization, traits that were honed during his long stint with the RSS. He works very long hours and is very meticulous. Soon after winning the elections in 2002, he got all the ministries to make detailed presentations about their activities and plans. About two were made each week and lasted from 5 pm to about 9 pm. The entire top administration was required to sit in on these presentations. Anyone could chip in with suggestions. These lasted for three months. ‘Besides benefiting him and the ministers, it was demystification, breaking the silos for us,’ said a secretary in Gujarat’s general administration department. His preparations for the Vibrant Gujarat Investment Summits are also as thorough.

Contrary to the impression that Modi is self-opinionated (which he is), he is a good listener. Officials say he does not put anyone down, not in public at least. He gives officials long tenures. Hasmukh Adhia, the current finance secretary, was education secretary for 13 years! He does not interfere in transfers and postings. Under Modi’s watch the return on investment at Gujarat’s profit-making state owned companies, has doubled. Modi, of course, does not let anyone outshine him or take credit. Officials have to be pliant to be in Modi’s good books. If they are not, Modi will put them in their place. A K Luke, who has many achievements to his credit including turning around Gujarat State Fertilizer Corporation, is now a farmer in Kollam in Kerala. He says, ‘Modi does not forgive, Modi does not forget and Modi does not reward.’ Luke believes that ethical management (which is not a call to piety but doing what is best for an organization) can change India for the better. His philosophy has been outlined in the website

Modis’s grip on the administration is thorough – and unnerving because he keeps tabs of the goings-on through official intelligence agencies as well as his own grapevine. There is little that happens in Gujarat that escapes Modi’s notice. Unlike Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who did not take daily intelligence briefings, according to Sanjaya Baru, his former media advisor, Modi can be expected to be always and comprehensively updated with political developments, and what his friends and rivals equally, are up to! Modi’s grip on the administration in Delhi will depend on the own numbers he can command. If he does not have to rely over much on pesky allies, he will run a tight ship. He will certainly have a strong Prime Minister’s Office. He will not let ministries work at cross-purposes as do under Singh. While Modi has been talking about taking everybody along, his track record in Gujarat is not encouraging. He has not created a sense of in the Muslim community there. It feels alienated. It is only in the last two years that he has reached out to it. Hanif Lakdawala, a psychiatrist by training, who works among Ahmedabad’s slum residents, says Muslims in Gujarat have accepted that they are second-class citizens. Even Amitabh Bachhan’s Khushboo Gujarati ki campaign for Gujarat Tourism did not feature a single Islamic monument for five years, even though Ahmedabad itself was founded by Ahmed Shah, a Muslim ruler. It is only earlier this year that amends were made.

While his job requires him to treat all citizens equally, there was no electoral compulsion on Modi to reach out to Muslims, because Gujarat’s society is so polarized and even the Congress party there is seen as a ‘B’ team of the BJP – only less communal. Ever since Modi has developed national ambitions and stepped beyond Gujarat he has not made any overt communal appeal. But his campaign manager Amit Shah (now banned from campaigning by the Election Commission for hate speech) has been making ‘dog whistles.’ These are covert communal appeals which are not within the hearing range of the Election Commission but audible to the communally-inclined. In Mathura, where Modi was addressing a rally, two MLAs, who were booked for involvement in the Muzzafarnagar riots, were felicitated. Of course Modi did not share the dais with them. But the message was quite clear to the hardliners.

Modi has said that he does not want anybody to live in fear and that he will treat everybody equally.

Development has benefited everybody in his state, including the Muslims he says. There have been no riots in Gujarat for 12 years since 2002. This spell of social peace has benefited Muslims the most. Gujarat was known for communal riots every few years. This would set back the Muslim community as the curfews and economic disruption that followed would affect it the most, since Muslims mostly live in urban areas and are either self-employed or do casual labor. But national sample surveys show that poverty among Muslims is quite sticky. In the 15 years to 2009-10, poverty among them declined by five percentage points while among Hindus it fell by 16 percentage points. The latest National Sample Survey (based on a thin sample) shows a drastic fall in poverty among Muslims. It says there are far less poor people among Muslims than among Hindus, but I would rather rely on the five-yearly surveys which are based on bigger samples.

There is no evidence that Modi has unsubscribed to his hardline Hindu supremacist beliefs. But Modi also loves power. Once he gets into South Block, he would like to remain there for a long time. He knows that India is not Gujarat. If there is social tension, all his talk of development will go for a toss and Modi will not be able to win a second term (unless he tries some dubious tricks). This is one of the reasons why contentious issues like Article 370 (special status to Jammu & Kashmir), Uniform Civil Code and a bhavya (grand) temple at Ayodhya on the site of the Babri Mosque have been downplayed. Modi has created such an aura of development that he will have to strive hard to deliver. It is best to pin him down to that secular agenda.

About the author:

Vivian Fernandes  has been a journalist in Delhi for thirty years. After working with publications like Hindustan Times, The Observer of Business and Politics and India Today, he joined the Network 18 group (CNBC-TV18 CNN-IBN, IBN-7, Forbes India, and Colors), where he was Economic Policy Editor with CNBC-TV18, and Executive Editor of Network 18 founder, Mr Raghav Bahl’s book, Superpower? The Amazing Race Between China Hare and India’s Tortoise, published by Allen Lane, a division of Penguin. For that book, Vivian wrote three chapters on Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, under his own name. He called them India’s Dragon States. Vivian had done a series on governance for CNBC-TV18 for which he had interviewed Modi in 2008. A few months later, Modi was on a programme which Vivian moderated in Baroda. In 2012, Vivian met Modi again for an interview.

Last year, he traveled extensively through Gujarat’s tribal areas on a fellowship from Delhi’s Centre for Study of Developing Societies. This book is entirely self-financed. It has no institutional backing. Vivian studied in St Aloysius College and lives in Kulshekar, whenever he comes to Mangalore, which is pretty often.

For Vivian’s conversation with CNBC-TV18’s Shereen Bhan on the book, broadcast on 11th April 2014, on India Business Hour prime time at 9.30 pm, please click on the link below:

'Attack Modi's politics, don't discredit his economics'

For more details about the book visit

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P.Tauro, India :
Modi may get modified once he is elected but what about his clan? The aggressive, Hindutva oriented supporters may be a problem and will Modi be able to control them ? That is the question. Even before coming to power some of his supporters are so aggressive that they are frightening the nation.
A. S. Mathew, USA :
Mr. Fernadus is looking at the positive sides of Mr. Modi and adoring him like a miracle worker; without realizing the complicated factors in the totally complex society of India.

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries". Winston Churchill.

"The unchecked capitalism will make the rich richer and the poor poor" Pundit Nehru.

Both of them didn't like each other-both of them are greatly respected in the world history-both of them had totally divergent political ideology; but both of them were telling the truth.

Pundit Nehru mixed the Communism and British socialism wrapped up with democracy and introduced to the Indian soil, and the definition of Churchill was fully materialized. Rajive Gandhi saw the danger of keeping India in the failed socialism, so put the gear to capitalism.

Now, after three decades, what we see is the fulfillment of Pundit Nehru's prediction.
Over 71 billionaires and 7450 millionaires with more than $ 30 million asset, they are all competing each other for the foreign cars and eating lunch at the posh hotels spending hundreds of dollars/meal; whereas 400 million people of India are living with $ 1.25/day income based on the World Bank data in 2012.

How Mr. Modi is going to change this extreme polarization of wealth in India? What kind of new "ism", he is going to introduce in India? Can he take from the rich and give to the poor by force? He will be respecting the rich like the rest of the politicians around the world.

Mr. Fernades, now the whole world is totally interlocked economically. Any wind blowing at Wall St will affect Mumbai. The U.S. economic recovery is only in the news papers and the Chinese economy is cooling down very rapidly; and this combined wind will blow on India too. Whosoever takes the steering in Delhi has to drive through a very deep muddy road.
Alwyn, Canada :
If Modi is good then vote for him and stop advocating such idiots who is good for one community and try to exclude others specially Christians. I don't buy your ideas even for free of cost. Look at closely to his policies which is hurting the common man in Gujrat. May be he is good for some but the mass of people are not happy with his cunning attitude and focus on religious based leadership. In democractic world politics and religion has to be separated to be transparent and clean from unwanted influence. Your views doesn't jaive on the global platform. Always look at bigger picture then only you see everything clearly.
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