Thursday, October 30, 2008


Is Narendra Modi beginning to vigorously shake off the ghost of Gujarat 2002? With that one blot seen with a balanced perspective, is he fast emerging as the leader India wants and, according to an increasing number of well informed Indians, needs?

The dramatic manner in which Modi successfully wooed and won over Ratan Tata recently to shift the Nano car project from Singur to Sanan in Gujarat has deeply impressed many skeptics who have thus far seen him only through the lens of the riots that rocked Gujarat in 2002. The 'Nano coup' did not happen by accident. Nor was it an isolated achievement of a political leader known to be on a mission to power his state to economic development and prosperity in a manner that has no parallel in independent India's history. In a country long stymied by red tape and a corrupt and completely unresponsive bureaucracy, Narendra Modi has more than demonstrated what an honest, competent and visionary leader can do to single-handedly turn red tape into a 'red carpet' and get babus to do their jobs as they should have been doing on their own.

Perhaps that is why, in what is easily the most dramatic turnaround of opinions, Suhel Seth, Managing Partner Counselage, has suddenly blown the Modi trumpet as loudly as any one can. Sushel Seth has been one of the most vocal critics of Modi. He has been calling him a modern-day Hitler and has written and spoken extensively against for many years. But, after a recent meeting with Modi which made a dispassionate view about him possible, Seth has been struck by the realisation that Modi is a truly transformational leader and that India needs many more like him. Reminds one of what is being said about Barack Obama in the US.

Suhel Seth echoes the views of the majority of readers who took part in two concurrent polls on this page which have closed/are closing today.

The first poll on this page had asked readers for their opinions in response to the question "Is Modi ready and fit to be PM?". Of the 114 individuals who cast their votes online, 52%(60) agreed that "India needs an honest and and competent leader like him." 36%(42) said "No, he is a Nero, not a hero and is not fit for the job." 9%(11) were implacably sick of Indian politics and voted for the third option, "It makes no difference, all politicians are the same." There was just one voter who said "I don’t know." It must be added that at no point of time during the poll did support for Modi drop below 50%. Similarly, the percentage of those who consider him to be Nero remained in the thirties all through. The remaining 9% can obviously swing one way or another quickly as developments unfold.

In the second and concurrent poll, readers were asked the question: "Has parliamentary democracy failed?" Multiple choices were permitted. Almost half, 46%, of the 43 who voted answered emphatically in the affirmative. Only 11% felt that it had not failed. Interestingly, 39% were of the resigned view that although it had not delivered, it was the best available model. As may as 16% felt that India needed benign autocracy for some time to fix the ills. When you view both the polls together, an interesting picture emerges. Although 89% feel that democracy has failed, only 9% said that all politicians were worthless when asked whether Narendra Modi was fit to be the PM. 91% were emphatically either for or against him.

These polls are clearly not scientific and represent a very small sample of English speaking individuals, not necessarily Indians, located all over the world. Nevertheless, only an obdurate ideologue will deny that they do give us a peek into what agitates and excites many more of us about India's politics and politicians.

Suhel Seth was earlier among the 36% of those who still cannot see Modi without the spectacles of 2002. Now he remembers that over 3500 Sikhs were killed in Delhi, "thrice the number killed in Gujarat". Now he says that the "truth of the matter is that Modi genuinely means business as far as law and order is concerned." Now he has seen Modi's work ethic and competence first hand and is deeply impressed with him. Now he is beginning to understand why some people say Modi is God.

That is saying a lot, given the new lows that some of or politicians sink to almost on a daily basis, just to get a few votes more.

How many more will undergo the 'Seth transformation' is a development that needs to be closely watched. The way things are going, soon the only other options might well be 'Laloo Raj', 'Laloo-Raj' and variants, aided and abetted by leading political parties weakened by a debilitating absence of real, visionary leaders that this country needs. Badly and urgently.

Is Narendra Modi that leader, as Suhel Seth has come to believe, and as a majority of those who took part in the poll on this page do too?
Readers may also read:
1. Tehelka unearths a Prime Minister
2. 1984 anti-Sikh riots: the real Tehelka
3. E=M^2: the Modi phenomenon
4. Single and on a mission: India's alpha (ge)Ms
5. Is Modi BJP's answer to the Manmohan-Mayawati challenge?
6. Multi-party democracy: a failed model