Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Narendra Modi is Not Superman. Please!

He is at best an administrator significantly better than his peers. He may have shown promise, but let us not burden him with Superman('s)hood as that will only raise our expectations to such levels that they will be impossible for anyone to fulfill.

What afflicts Modi is that he is not looked at as a normal man with attendant limitations of inefficient, opaque and lethargic bureaucracy, local governments and their agencies like the police force. This polarizes us into "lovers" and "haters" - making us prone to exaggerating whatever he does, be it purportedly "good" or allegedly "bad". There is only so much he can do working with limited material and human resources. Not to forget, challenges faced by any sincere administrator are numerous and grave - high population density; resulting apparent and disguised unemployment; illiteracy; struggle for basic resources that makes common man take recourse to 'socially accepted taboos' like bribery, nepotism and "cutting of each others' throats" in any kind of competition; ignorance and gullibility of citizens that are exploited by misguiding mass media; corrupt subordinates/peers/superiors; and obligation to compensate those financing election campaigns.

Somehow Modi has started working on basics by: promoting education (specially of girls); raising public office-bearers' accountability; efficient use of available resources; clearly separating religion and tradition from state policies (demolition of numerous temples for road works and making teaching English compulsory from class 1) and countering strife by encouraging investment in industries. He has rightly realized that it is not agriculture (largely, disguised unemployment) but other industries that should and will be major sources of employment as reflected in gradual urbanization promoted by him.

What we need is not one Modi whose power and efficiency would spread thin by becoming the Prime Minister, but many such administrators at all levels who could sincerely and with foresight try to solve India's problems.

My admiration for him lies not so much in the results he has shown which can anyway be undone by a single year of 'regular' leadership, but a crack of hope he has been able to create in my hardened cynicism that "yes, it can be done".

In response to a few comments, here.


  1. I would tend to agree with you.

    I have also read the discussion on Offstumped. It is amazing how perception can be manufactured and sold as the truth. We see it everyday on TV and read it everyday in the papers - but it is finally only a shrilly-voiced opinion, and unfortunately, most people allow themselves to be misled, and see it as the truth.

    And yes, that was a typo on twitter!

    Quirky Indian

  2. Yes and No.

    It's not fair to expect miracles. But at the same time we can not overplay the excuse of "weakness of a normal human being". A leader has to be more than a normal human being, because he gets the power and privileges quite unlike a common man. And more importantly, people look to a leader for inspiration and more often than not, people follow him blindly. Modi is a great promoter of development and education, no doubt. But I feel he could have done more to promote communal harmony in this country. Whether he is refraining from it because of his own believes or his party's mandate is debatable. But at the end of the day, a spade should be called a spade, although in this case, the spade is a useful one.

  3. Hi Ketan

    I have rarely followed any news or information on Narendra Modi. A very close friend of mine (whom I regard very highly), has been keenly following every news (sensible ones, and not the hyped up rhetoric models), and based on whatever I have heard from him, the inputs has been good. I respect Modi precisely for the reasons listed / discussed out above by you - administration, educational reforms and industrialisation. Best example has been Tata Motors Nano Plant at Sanand. An event which I was eagerly following. A shift from WB, which literally had me seething with anger at Mamta and the inability of the West Bengal Govt to control a mob, which was a product of the Left' Governments own process / ideologies or the lack of it.

    The point which grabbed my attention the most in your post was

    "My admiration for him lies not so much in the results he has shown which can anyway be undone by a single year of 'regular' leadership, but a crack of hope he has been able to create in my hardened cynicism that "yes, it can be done"

    Never expressly told you that before. If it has created a hope, please hold on to it. I believe, cynicism rarely takes us forward. Talking of hope, someday try watching "The Shawshank Redemption". Somehow loved that movie. May not be directly relevant here. It just came to my mind.

    Cheers and Regards

  4. Hi Ketan

    Forgot to add. Narendra Modi IS superman, not because of what he can do or our expectations, but because what he has done. Which is definitely worthy of worship considering the deplorable standards of governance all over.


  5. I have only one worry. Modi has done it, but its his personal heroics. This needs to be converted into a repeatable performance. It needs to be translated into a process and ideology.

    Is BJP ready for it ? Than we can have several Modi and Several Guj.

  6. Quirky Indian,

    Thanks for your comment! I would have been interested to know where you disagree, even if subtly, so. It may or may not get converted into a long drawn debate/discussion.



    My post had ended on a personal note, but a large part of it was generic, in that, it dealt with challenges faced by any elected leader. The backdrop of this post was the blog post on Offstumped (which I have linked in the last line) where people had referred to him as 'Mahatma' & batted for him to be the next prime minister. Personally, I were to be asked I would not want him to be the prime minister of India simply because his administrative abilities will get diluted. Gujarat, despite doing well in many areas, still has a great margin to benefit from his administration & sincerity, e.g., in literacy & primary health care.

    But what worried me about the attitude on the Offstumped post was the amount of hope & height of expectations pinned against him. People do not realize that there is no way an efficient & honest prime minister can prevent a village head from grabbing a poorer farmer's land! And then, that farmer might commit suicide. What a good leader, however, can do is to put like-minded people in pivotal positions, yet, for visible changes to occur, will take a lot of time.

    With regard to your issue with promotion of communal harmony, I somehow don't see any precedent of how to go about it.

    You probably euphemistically meant to allude to his alleged role in Gujarat's 2002. I do not know of any gesture that could be reliably attributed to him that led to the outbreak and spreading of riots. The media stories (presented in guise of witness accounts and concerns of NGOs), in my knowledge, are so motivated and off mark that to draw any conclusions based on them would not be very wise.

    To try to answer your question in another way, two big reasons for communal clashes are lack of education and excessive frustration because of lack of resources. In latter case anger is directed at the closest perceived cause of that deprived state.

    So Modi, is indeed countering both the causes.

    Of course, results will take time to show, but one of the indicators is that not a single riot has occurred despite Gujarat being a highly polarized state since 2002.

    And there are different perspectives. I do not take a utopian view of administration in India....

  7. ...As I said my bar for assessing politicians is based on precedent set and performance of other contemporaries.

    One can call administrative failure "overplaying the excuse", or alternatively the expectation that administration never fail as "underplaying the inherent limitations". I guess, that's how people will guage leaders differently. :)

    Thanks a lot for your views!


    My reply to you would be short as most of what I would have liked to tell you has been covered in my comment to mgeek above.

    To tell you a miscellaneous thing, one of the reasons people of Gujarat trust Modi is because he does not have a family! Yes, before you pointed out to me, I had never thought great of Nano plant coming up in Gujarat, but yes, it just again shows his focus on development-related issues.

    Please go through the comments on the linked page, where he has been referred to as Mahatma and next PM, etc. What anguished me was desperate are people for one spark of brilliance, and what will happen to those hopes when they are not realized. In fact, for me too this post was a kind of self-reminder to not get too wishful. :) But your advise seems to be contradictory. Am surprised it is Modi who you too are asking me to be not cynical about. :)

    Yes, if we compare him to other leaders, he indeed is a Superman, but he can fail. :)

    Thanks for your comments!


    Welcome to the blog!

    Well, I was not trying to promote BJP, for I am doubtful if good leadership has much to do with the political parties. In fact, even in BJP I hardly see any other capable leader. From what I have heard, Nitish Kumar is good, but he is not from BJP. :)

    This post was only my attempt to try to explain to others to not get too expectant about Modi, something which incidentally you also pointed out.

    Thanks for your comment!

  8. by the way, whats up? n hows things going? ive lost your no, thats why i havent been in touch. take care!

  9. In my personal opinion your blog can improve on usability, the readability is bad especially when reading on a small screen netbooks and PDAs. But I think not all people are on the go like me.


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