The biggest crisis India faces today is crisis of leadership. The biggest crisis that Indians face today is crisis of confidence. The biggest challenge that India and Indians face today is to overcome these twin crises.
On Saturday Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi offered dazzling hope that it’s possible to overcome both as he outlined, even if sketchily, an agenda for a resurgent India.
Speaking at the India Today Conclave in New Delhi, Modi provided a big picture of his Idea of India, a country free of discrimination and governed by a policy-driven regime that would not only place people ahead of everything else but also make them stakeholders in nation-building.
From converting entitlement to empowerment, pushing Government to move from meaningless Acts to outcome-driven “black-and-white” policies, to leveraging national assets for greater good of the people and generating employment opportunities, Modi made the quantum leap from being Chief Minister of India’s showcase fastest developing State to a national leader with an over-arching vision connecting Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
He spoke extempore, he spoke from the heart, and he spoke with courage and conviction.
No cynical politician would suggest that an asset-creating Develeopment Guarantee Scheme is a far better option than a leaky, corruption-ridden Employment Guarantee Scheme.
No crafty politician would suggest cutting back on chemical fertiliser subsidy by getting farmers to switch over to organic fertiliser produced by recycling urban solid waste.
No eye-on-the-vote politician would tell the people that they need to change their attitude too and become participants in the development process instead of waiting for the state to deliver.
No status quoist politician would make bold to suggest that there should be private sector participation in railways and Government should get out of the business of running business.
No me-too-Gandhian politician would dare propose India should become a net seller of weapons to the world than being a net importer of arms.
But then, Modi is not cynical. He is not crafty. He looks beyond votes and elections: He looks at India as it can be in a rapidly changing world of the 21st century. He is all set to rock the status quo. He detests double-speak and bluntly states what he believes in.
For instance, that every citizen of the country deserves to be protected by the state, not only those belonging to one section or another. It’s a reformulation of the powerful slogan: Justice for all, appeasement of none.
Or that Government should be rid of its discretionary powers and ensure absolute transparency, holding itself accountable to the people.
And that corruption can be eradicated by making policy black-and-white without any loopholes for fiddle-diddle, and harnessing technology that would mark a radical shift to e-governance.
He passionately believes in federalism and in consultation. He proudly wears his credentials as a people-centric democrat on his sleeves. He does not shy away from admitting that his USP is what he is and the way he does things — there’s no false modesty about him which is the standard of the bogus Delhi elite.
It is all this and more which makes him a tall leader, a leader who inspires hope and aspiration, a leader who has a vision for India, a vision that is not circumscribed by what the elite perceives is best for India but what Indians perceive is best for them.
The last time India embraced such a leader was when Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the son of a small town teacher, became Prime Minister. This time, it’s Modi, a small town boy from a humble family who has risen to the top because he not only preaches but also practices what he calls the ‘Modi Mantra': Don’t dream of becoming somebody; dream of doing something.
Modi spoke of the democracy dividend as one of India’s untapped strengths. If he were to rise further and get to lead India from the front, that would reflect the innate strength of India’s democracy.
His message on Saturday was unequivocal: Yes, India can.
Millions who heard him with rapt attention would unanimously say: Yes, he can.