Home > Uncategorized > Narendra Modi: Is he the leader for these times?

Narendra Modi: Is he the leader for these times?


Narendra Modi’s attempt to transition from Gujarat to the national level has the potential to polarise, and perhaps fracture, the Indian political consensus as none other before him in India’s nascent democracy. Modi’s aspiration to the highest executive office is entirely legitimate and backed by a credible record of managing the economy of Gujarat. He has proved to be an able administrator though he remains untested as a reformer. Gujarat was one of the top performing states economically much before Narendra Modi arrived on the scene. Nevertheless in a country mired in maladministration and corruption, his record as an administrator with a relatively unblemished slate on corruption stands out. India remains a highly diverse polity that rarely votes on a single issue through the length and breadth of its continental size. Can the highly polarising personality of Modi transcend the local nature of Indian politics and emerge as a leader who can unite us around a set of issues like economic reforms that need urgent attention? Modi’s rise from Ahmedabad to Delhi must be judged in the context of India’s need of the hour. Is Modi the man for these times?
Modi is often conflated with the issue of secularism because of his acts of omission and commission as the chief minister in Gujarat during the 2002 riots that killed thousands, most of whom were Muslims. The riots were seen as retaliation by the majority community for killing of RSS karsevaks (volunteers) in a train at Godhra. The riots happened on Modi’s watch. Modi’s fulminations against Muslims in particular are a matter of public record. To date Modi has said or done little to make amends for his failure to prevent the riots, which lasted over a week. For somebody who claims to be an able administrator, that omission is ominous. The presumption is that Modi cannot apologise for the riots for fear of alienating his political base of obscurantists. Modi’s subsequent actions in destruction of records pertaining to the riots and persecution of dissenting officers raise deep issues of integrity in his administration. Despite Gujarat and other communal riots that have flared up from time to time, against Muslims and other communities, India’s commitment to build a secular polity that derives legitimacy from a written constitution as opposed to divinity remains firm and resolute. Modi’s accession to Delhi will not reverse India’s commitment to secular ideals. But his accession has the potential to mire India in a sterile debate over secularism when the need of the hour is economic reforms that can end the sort of cronyism that Congress politicians have unleashed in their years in office for self-aggrandisement. If it does so, India could lose another decade in futile bickering.
For some sections of the Indian polity, particularly the right wing, Modi’s rise represents a certain impatience with the slow and dilatory processes for evolving a consensus. Far better to cut through the clutter through a leader who has clarity of thought and the ability to implement his ideas. That this desire represents a throwback to the implied wish for a benevolent dictator worries them not. India’s own experience with the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in the 70s should serve to remind them of the danger this represents. Family planning as a way to limit population growth was, and is, an excellent idea worth pursuing with all the resources at our command. But the coercive tactics that the goons of Sanjay Gandhi used to implement the ideal invited a backlash that makes it a dirty word even after 40 years. Shortcuts to an ideal, howsoever cherished and legitimate it may be, are not always the quickest way of getting there. Consensus must precede reform in a diverse polity if it is not to be fractured. The same holds true for economic reforms. Most of the reforms that have been implemented to date have been by stealth or justified by an overriding necessity. The problem is not so much convincing the powers that be that reforms are necessary. The problem is that politicians across the board are more eager to sell themselves as benevolent purveyors of a limitless largesse awaiting distribution that is unfairly denied to them by rival corrupt politicians. Indian politicians must transition from the role of dispensers of ‘free’ goodies to sellers of reforms that emphasise hard work, merit and fair returns to all those involved in productive processes. Can Modi accomplish that onerous but important job? Can he tap into the aspirations of the young for a decent job and show them the way through education and not entitlements? The true test of a leader for our times will lie in his or her ability to sell a vision for our future that addresses the aspirations of the 18-30 age group of our voters. Much as the Congress would like otherwise, Rahul Gandhi has simply failed to show that aptitude. Can Modi fill the gap that our other geriatric leaders simply cannot grasp?
The wasted years and opportunities of the UPA2 arid years make it imperative that the next elections are about India’s future and not its past. Anna Hazare’s rise as a mass leader outside our normal political system is a grim reminder to politicians that their grimy politics of asset gathering while in office has outlived its utility. If that entails urgent electoral reforms, then those must be put in place before the 2014 elections. The system must change and adapt before it irretrievably breaks down. Electoral reforms brook no delay. Likewise, Modi’s appeal, despite the questions surrounding his role in the 2002 riots, centre on his role as an effective administrator in post-riots Gujarat. Both Anna and Modi personify a breakdown of normal pork and identity-based politics in the Congress mould as practiced by almost every political party. They are a challenge to the existing system but also an opportunity for change. What will be important going forward is not so much what Modi does to pursue his legitimate claim to the highest office but what the system does to meet his challenge.

It would be a pity if Modi’s challenge degenerates into a debate over secularism harking back to the past. Modi himself can do a lot to prevent that from happening by making suitable amends for his role in the riots and reaffirming his faith in the basic configuration of our polity. Modi perhaps is the only person who can draw a line under 2002 in time for the 2014 elections. The courts cannot. Any attempt to ‘manufacture’ a political acquittal by distorting the Supreme Court’s legal verdict can only boomerang and mire the debate in sterile polemics about secularism and the like. In any democracy, the rule of law must precede democracy itself for democracy cannot survive without the rule of law. The argument that Modi’s acts of omission and commission have been washed away by the electoral verdicts since 2002 should not hold. That they are peddled around seriously is a reflection of our immaturity as a democracy. Absent a court verdict it is for Modi himself to make amends. It is time to move on and Modi can help move the debate to one about our future rather than the past. Will Modi rise to the occasion? That is something Modi alone can answer and answer right he must.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Chara
    September 19, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I started reading the article with cynicism as the tweets I usually read are in a way makes us abhor you.However this article was brilliant.You have put everyting in perspective & yes Modi has to in some way express remorse & reach out.Off course people will view anything he does with colored glasses but his strong personality can absorb it.Very honestly you can’t win elections now on communal lines as people are fed up with it & moreso are becoming increasingly aware that they are being taken for a ride.Modi has the positives which can get out of the cesspool we are in & I sincerely hope he makes the neccessary changes required & win the confidence of the nation.
    Thank you once again for the balanced write up.


  2. September 19, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I would call this a well balanced, futuristic, impartial and constructive perspective with perhaps a dire too much left, yet center leaning post by Sonali. Tend to agree mostly with her views.

  3. Atul
    September 19, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Making amends for his role in riots?? Are you serious? Well if you do not understand what you have written let me make it clear. Its like killing your family and then giving you a some coins of change. He is a murderer and must be punished.

  4. September 19, 2011 at 7:56 am

    This is 24-carat nonsense based on filthy notions and prejudices that have been peddled for a long time now.

  5. September 19, 2011 at 8:21 am

    You are expressing fears that what will happen when he becomes PM has he done anything in last 10 years that you fear that he will do to undermine secular status of this country .. if you are feared abt his dictatorship comparing it abt Indira gandhi emergency days what you have to say abt if Mayawati becomes pm .. i pity you and like minded people who are partial and have an agenda and certainly double standards and hypocrites in true definition.. you dont condemn congress and rajiv gandhi with the same logic when he became pm and said something … you dont crib abt 4000 sikhs since sikhs dont matter in electoral politics for congress since they are very few but muslims matter just for vote bank .. wrong is wrong .. whether it is hindu, muslim or sikh .. but some have fobia of modi … this is the same theory you dont let go what happened in past … you dont want to heal wounds .. you will constantly needle it to have it live and fresh … if the law of land is not as you wished you undermine it .. if anna does it you crib abt undermining of institutions … you never talk about the sycophancy that exists in cong and dynasty rule.. what are the cons of dynasty .. you automatically qualify for pm with a certain last name … you have no issue of minority appeasing when someone calls a terrorist with ji .. and visits the terrorists home …does not these things polarise …. there is something rotten in the minds of BJP bashers all the time … you see things thru your own made prism … . break those specs … come out of self made cottage industry …

  6. Shailesh Mehta
    September 19, 2011 at 8:22 am

    One would not deny the progress of Gujrat under Narendra Modi in rcent times. By that one cannot take away the credit of the people of Gujrat who have always been progressive in nature even much before Modi came into picture. Merely being a good orator does not necessarily qualify you to become a National leader. There is no question of him being apologetic of his role in the riots only because he is too egoistic to do so. Humbleness is not in his nature. Gujrati’s basically are humble by virtue and tolerant by nature, unfortunately none of this can be attributed to Narendra Modi. Gujrat has always been good and all he has done is made it better, had it been bad and made it better then full credit would have gone to him.

    I do not belittle the progress of Gujrat as he is a very able administrator, but at National level he still needs to be more political and mature in his outlook. He still has to proove himself at the National level.

  7. SGupta
    September 19, 2011 at 8:22 am

    If you are interested in knowing all the answers rather than purely thesis for academic purpose, please schedule an interview call with him.

  8. vihang
    September 19, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Another leftist ideologue that cannot digest achievements of NM. How about blaming sheila dixit or PC for recent Mumbai Blasts. After all security of Delhi is on their shoulders. Its stupid thing to raise communal riots case whenever success of Modi administration is discussed. A hindu is anti-islamic by default because, hindus do not accept the intolerant ideology that Islam preaches. This is evident in Kashmir. Also important to note that Muslim majority in kashmir is anti-India. Does that mean, we loose the concept of India if Islam dominates?
    As 2002 riots case is concerned, there is targeted propaganda against Modi by some people. We need to wash our eyes not just opening it.

  9. sharique
    September 19, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    we need more people,matching your views and ideas…. let’s hope our polity is not decided on caste & religion anymore

  10. Ajay
    September 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Well written and balanced perspective!

  11. Abraham Cyril
    September 19, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    A good post; a totally balanced one with precise focus on the need of the hour.

  12. September 19, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Pertinent issues, some challenges for the nation, not for the Modi alone.Modi can somehow be counted to rise to the challenges. No other leader in India to-day across party lines is even able to grasp the problems/challenges remotely.

    • Shailesh Mehta
      September 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm

      One shoul see the state of Bihar today. Unlike Gujrat with or without Modi, Bihar has always been backward. Today it is not the same. Credit for this goes to none other than Nitish Kumar who is equally capable of handling the National affairs. If one feels that only Modi is capable then we are climbing the wrong tree. No administrative excellence is less than Nitish Kumar. Honesty- he stands tall. One should equally laud his performance, he does not need to go on a fast to convey anything because his actions speak louder than his words.
      Let us not fool ourselves thinking that Modi is the only mantra for success or he is the only instrument for success.

      • Akash Shah
        September 24, 2011 at 6:01 am

        Dont forget that Nitish Kumar govt is supported and partnered by BJP. Modi may/may not become PM without JD(U) – that question will be answered in 2014. But Nitish Kumar certainly can’t remain CM in 2011 without BJP support as things stand now !

      • muslund
        September 24, 2011 at 9:51 am

        @ shailesh
        dont deliver your vitriol on the basis of some good reports of nitish in the media.. bihar is eons behind the development and governance in comparison to gujarats.

      • Raju
        October 27, 2011 at 7:42 am

        I am from Bihar, i know abtout Mr. Nitish Kumar also i got chance to meet me, he is good but Mr. Modi is far far far better than Nitish Kumar without any doubt.

  13. shiv narain singh
    September 20, 2011 at 6:53 am

    ..I m perhaps in d hopeless minority who thinks and believes that Congress is the most divisive,caste driven and covertly communal party in India and above all the most corrupt.You can scan the records of Congress rule, which apart from comparatively tolerable law and order,is mired in high inflation,absolute carelessness for the common man(there is no dearth of rhetoric for the care of the common man),mind boggling corruption and shameless appeasement of muslims in the name of communal harmony which in any case is(i mean d communal harmony) not because of Congress party’s policies.You may ask why such a distaste for Congress and you have only to look at 22.5% reservation for Scheduled Castes&Tribes(which was initially for 10 years only)still continuing,Sachchar commitee report but no muslim worth d name who could head one of wings of the armed forces in 65 years, to name a few instances of bias.It took a Janata Party govt. to install I.H.LATIF as Air Chief. And because of this I have never voted for Congress during the last 40 years and don’t intend to do anything otherwise in remaining years of my life.
    It is ironical that earlier JanSangh and now BJP have reacted and performed politically in the exact manner which Congress party desires it to.It can only be termed as political harakiri.It is no secret though that BJP ruled(single or coalition)states have performed better than Congress ruled ones but Congress has much better show managers than BJP and that is why it is able to win elections despite ieffecient governance and colossal corruption.
    You have analysed Modi brilliantly and elaborated on the points which may go in his favour in the ultimate analysis but i doubt he is as yet ready to govern India.If it happens i will welcome it from the point of view of governance.His not accepting the scull cap from a Imam has not gone very favourabely with the people who matter for him to acquire centre stage at the centre.

  14. September 20, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Modi has been doing great for Gujrat and he posses a charm to attract the people from different community. He has proved a lot but still there is lot to show to the world most importantly India that he does not stand as a CM due to one community but he is been a great for each community, region, religion and society. I would love to see him PM instead double mouthed people and puppets.

    Great Article Sonali

  15. September 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    commendable!! I knew i was ready comments from someone with B&B

  16. Ashutosh
    September 23, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Modi 2.0 launched a few days back, is certainly far more ‘value-packed’ than its previous version released (and publicized) in 2002.

    Consumer experiences (in Gujarat) validate the ‘brand promise’ made by Modi 2.0 and encourage consumers with different political tastes to try this product once. All other brands are stale and brand promise is limited to Secular Rhetoric, Socialism and Poverty-Reduction.

    Modi 2.0 is the brand.

  17. daddy jo
    September 24, 2011 at 3:18 am

    driving force behind Bihar is not what is being peddled to believe. Another Modi (Sushil) is entrusted with the Governance while Nitish trying to strike a vote-balance. Ask him a question on Power Crisis in Bihar and he will start looking for Sushil. Secular-Militia has forgottent that Nitish is only a Caste Leader and his (and his parties) role/stand on Mandal and Women Reservation says everything about this Tall Dwarf.

  18. Shailesh Mehta
    September 24, 2011 at 5:01 am

    It is difficult to understand how one could sympathize with Narendra Modi. We give him credit of good administration in Gujrat, we give him credit for the progress that the state has made. Also please don’t forget the fact that Gujrati’s as a community by themselves are progressive by nature, and if by giving largess one feels he is very efficient than we are extending a wrong credit to a person. Don’t forget what attracts industrialists to Gujrat is that even the Gujrat labor is a peace loving labor force. They believe in discussions rather than strikes unless forced to. So singing praise of only NM is doing disservice to the Gujrati community as a whole.

    In so far as projecting him as a PM candidate, merely being a good orator is not enough, or exploiting sentiments is not worthy of a PM’s post. You need to take the people with you, and not divide them. Wearing a turban,cap or hat does not make you tall in the eyes of the public. What has he achieved by a 3 day fast? Gandhiji never fasted to try and be in the public’s eye, he fasted for a just cause. Narendra Modi’s fast was just a farce for a cause he hardly believes in. So please stop giving undeserved accolades attributed to him alone.

    Shailesh Mehta

  19. Dr M H Liu
    September 24, 2011 at 5:49 am

    A very insightful blog. Modi will be a nobody if he steps out of his fort, i.e., Gujarat. BJP projecting him as a candidate for PM is their wishful thinking. Modi should take leaf out of Mr Jyoti Basu’s action. Jyoti Basu too was offered the post of PM during the tumultuos 90s but he declined, because he new outside of Bengal he was nothing. Similarly, Modi is a state level leader not a national level one. And with his past he can never be a national level leader for BJP let alone the PM of India.

  20. Akash Shah
    September 24, 2011 at 5:52 am

    I can say that I havent read a better and objective analysis on Modi in recent times. You have hardcore Modi supporters on one end who do not see anything wrong in him, or you have left and center-left political and media types who cant see anything right in him. This blog wonderfully covers both positives and negatives of Naredra Modi.

    I couldn’t agree more that India can not loose a decade on worthless arguments of secularism whereas what young Indians want are jobs & development.

    Best way forward would be for Modi to show some remorse and mend his ways – in all honesty. He needs to be a team player and be more inclusive. As for his detractors, not just loss for Modi it will be a loss for India if leaders like him who have clean record on corruption , have vision and administrative skills for development can not play a role at national level.

    Communalism kills innocent people, but corruption also kills lakhs of people who die for lack of nutrition, health care and basic amenities. So we cant hung up on secularism/communalism for decades to come while Indians pay heavy price for it.

    In a true Indian way, all the stakeholders must pursue a middle path which is in everyone’s benefit.

  21. kaizoku
    September 24, 2011 at 5:57 am

    anyone who says the riots lasted for over a week cannot be taken seriously.

  22. Dr M H Liu
    September 24, 2011 at 6:02 am

    After going through some of the comments, I really pity some people who think it’s a propaganda against Modi. It’s time for them to wash their eyes and gargle too before they open their mouth. What was your age at the time of Gujarat riots, didn’t you hear on TV, live reports saying that innocents were being massacred right before the police and the police were looking the other way. One might say I wasn’t there to witness it, but let me tell you something you weren’t there either. Stop being a sycophant and take raw facts into consideration. Modi is a killer, Period.

  23. Cyrus
    September 24, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Those who don’t heed history are doomed to repeat it, true he has charisma and to some extent he has a way of reinventing himself but please remember Hitler was a mild mannered artist and did not initiate the holocaust till he was legitimately elected into power through a election the rest as they say is history. I agree compared to Modi, Rahul Gandhi comes off as almost naive, but as always in Indian politics it’s not about right or wrong or about good or bad or even about the country, it’s about voting for the lesser evil and when you put Modi aginst Rahul, Rahul is and always will be the lesser evil, and hence will have my vote at election time.

  24. Akhtar Hussain
    September 24, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I have read many pieces on Modi but this stands out for its balanced and constructive approach. Too much has been said about Modi’s role in 2002 pogrom and his administrative abilities. This piece does a justice to both where Modi must be appreciated for the Gujrat success story in economic terms and where he must be questioned on the negatives. I haven’t seen too many people talk about his autocratic ways, by including the larger democratic question into it, Ms Sonali has raised the discourse to a new height. Simply, one of the best piece I have read on Modi, and this will certainly help the reader in shaping his views and to look at the issue in a larger perspective.

    There will always be people who would see nothing wrong about Modi (as reflects in some the comments) and there will be always be people (like me) who would see nothing right about Modi. But I entirely agree with you that we all need to rise above it and see this issue in a larger perspective.

    Kudos, for such a balanced and constructive piece. Keep up the good work, keep writing.

  25. Goodvibes15
    September 26, 2011 at 8:23 am

    One more well stringed piece of opinionated gibberish aimed at Modi-bashing. Convenient and sparse facts here and there, lots omitted, again for convenience. No comparision of likes, compare 2002 in Gujarat with dammit any incident under Congress rule, 1984 Sikh massacre, instigated of course. But no! Compare an undeserving dynastic scion to a self made leader and make both to be zeroes, taking away any credibility in your so-called patronizing analysis.

  26. ArunGV
    October 9, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    A very objective and balanced read.

    A person like Modi is what is needed now but I am not sure if Modi will be able to be as successful as PM of India, as he not popular with people outside his own state.

    For that matter BJP under guidance of RSS will not endorse Modi for PM. BJP cannot take its own stand as they are a mere puppet of RSS, ironically what Congress is to Sonia and Nehru family.

    This is the shackle that has to be broken. There is no point crying, if u are serious for a change then Go and Vote don’t abstain. This is ur right, but what we choose not to vote and cry instead.

    We need reformation, Congress has to go, but then who do u vote for BJP. They are lacking direction and have wasted every single opportunity to improve their image as a good and constructive Opposition. The best they have done so far is walk out of the Parliament and what did they active with that.

    Politicians have taken the Indian population for granted, unless we demonstrate the will nothing is gonna change.

    As for Modi he will only spoil his name and will be disowned by his own party. I think RSS has already mentioned this too.

    • October 10, 2011 at 11:38 am

      Narendra Modi is not only misfit for the post of PM but he does not deserve it as well. No autocratic leader like him can succeed, and India will only go backwards if leaders like him are given national power. He is a very good administrator only in Gujrat where too his popularity is decreasing day by day. Within his own party he has more enemies than friends.
      So let us wish him luck only for Gujrat.

  27. Daljeet Singh
    November 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Blocking Parliament is the highest offence in India blocking parliament mean blocking voice of 121 hundreds cores of people . India is called largest democracy of world First debate in Parliament of India and then explain the impact of Bill and impact of Policy to public
    After Pakistan Advani become the head of BJP and after the BJP is in the Hand of Pakistani Advani
    Parliament could not function properly since more than 8 months
    In democracy Blocking the voice of 121 cores of people is not solution
    Now the actul cost of petrol is 29.62 Rs per liter above every one is paying tax on per liter
    Mean only in India where people are paying tax more than the actual cost of the Petrol
    why people are paying tax for 2G CWG scams and day by day new scams

    Public servant are getting one lac salary for garbing public funds and depositing in Swiss bank Account if PEPs is International law who deposit black money in tax haven country
    there should be a specific law for disqualification of public servant who holds Swiss account or any others account in tax haven country
    Modi is much better than Pakistani Advani who block always Parliament of India
    BJP moral one side blocked parliament on 2G more than one months another hand BJP is advocating for Kani for Bail in Court

    Over all Modi is much better than Pakistani Advani and his team
    Modi should join in National politics

  28. Dhananjay
    November 30, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    You call India’s democracy “nascent” after 64 yrs of democracy? LOL

    • Daljeet Singh
      May 29, 2012 at 4:47 am

      Rahul Gandhi Narender Modi will be leader of 21 Century .Now see the leader today Nor NDA and UPA has called a all chief Minister meeting on Price rise .and price rise a issue with all state because Oil is used in every industry Its primary issue of Price rise and every state have different vat and UPA should also discuss the GST( Good service tax) with all cheif minister and a one uniform policy should in every state on Petroleum product and govt should bring a GST .
      NCTC is the issue of Parliament its not a issue with all chief minister Govt should discuss it with all political party and bring a Internal Security act for it

  29. Dhananjay
    December 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

    What do Narendra Modi haters know about Gujarat riots that SIT, Supreme Court & Nanavati Commission do not and Who stopped them from submitting any proof in the last 10 years? Narendra Modi is NOT EVEN an accued in any court cases anywhere in India despite 10 years of venom-spewing hatred agenda of pliant Mainstream media and “Hate Modi” NGOs at the behest of Dynasty. Having said that, those who want to keep their delusional heads in sand & keep presuming Narendra Modi’s non-existent guilt have the right to do so in the “nascent” democracy of India. There are too many down right false statements here. Just one more example will suffice. S/he says “Modi’s fulminations against Muslims in particular are a matter of public record.”. Narendra Modi has more of his speeches on You Tube than any other politician of India. I challenge you to show ONE video(not 2 or 3 or more videos but just 1) from You Tube or from your privat collection or from any other source to prove this claim. Accusations are easy backing them with proof requires rational thought without prejudice.

  30. shiv narain singh
    May 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Modi will never be accepted as a mass leader and therefore will never become Prime Minister.He is a wily politician and a able administrator but this strength is his weakness as well because this strength will always be questioned by all and sundry vis-a-vis Gujrat riots of 2002.He can not be catapulted to prime ministership straightaway.A stint as a central minister could be a stepping stone to the ultimate goal and this will also help him and his party judge how well accepted he is as a central minister.There is one more point which goes against him…i.e. ..his party is not a humble party which owns up mistakes in genuine manner and bows apologetically before the masses to be regarded as worthy of governing India.The BJP as a party and its top leadership is arrogant,self-serving and as I said earlier,unapologetic.

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