Narendra Modi – the enigma surrounding the man, and the thought processes that drive his indefatigable existence, have confounded the best of political and social pundits - both in India and abroad. While Modi is fast developing into a symbol of India for the World, and a symbol of change and development for the vast majority of the Indian polity, he is still looked upon as a symbol of divisiveness and authoritarianism by his political opponents, many of whom were unabashed and crude in the expression of this view before and during the elections, but are now forced to constrain their opinions after Modi became PM. One thing that everyone will agree upon however, although some may reserve this opinion to themselves, is that there is no one in the Indian political scene today who can match Modi in terms of oratory, diligence and incorruptibility.
Ever since Modi was unanimously chosen as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate back in September 2013, his political career has been on a steep upswing, largely due to his impeccable oratory, and his unbelievable connect with the masses. He is a natural speaker, and one who connects with his audience with effortless ease. The content of his speeches is aimed at the audience he addresses, and he knows exactly what needs to be said to strike a chord with his listeners. The fact that Modi addressed more than four hundred rallies during the epic general elections of 2014, and that each rally was a resounding success in terms of attendance and enthusiasm is sufficient testimony to this stamina and oratorical prowess. His speeches are object lessons in mass communication, insofar that they are so well organized - in spite of being extempore – and so natural and convincing in their delivery that the audience is held in a trance every time he speaks. This, combined with his convincing push for efficient and corruption-free governance, and his innovative ideas for a better India, has already established him as one of the most popular leaders the country has seen.
Modi’s critics accuse him of being a lofty speaker without substance, but he has in a space of a few months achieved what his predecessor could not achieve in 10 years. He has made huge strides in strengthening India’s relationship with her neighbors Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Relations with Japan and US have been taken to all time highs. His stoic stance towards border aggression has meant that China and Pakistan are now more wary of making indiscreet advances than ever before. The economy has started picking up, inflation has started moderating. S&P has already upgraded India’s outlook from negative to stable. Surely, one would think that all this cannot be achieved by mere lofty talk.
All through his campaign for the general elections, and the four months so far of his Prime Ministership, Modi has made it his prime agenda to maintain, and enhance his connect with the people. He is always seen to be making newer and newer efforts to raise his equity among the masses, be it through his unfettered delivery from the Red Fort without the customary bullet-proof glass enclosure; or by his fervent appeal to all people to help him make India a clean country by 2019; or by his innovative interaction with the people through Twitter, Facebook and the official government website; or, as most recently, by interacting with the people through All India Radio.
His communication skills have held him in good stead on the international front as well. What has amazed political watchers, citizens, analysts, critics and even his own party men is the ease with which Narendra Modi has adapted to an unfamiliar role of overseas diplomacy. He not only went through all his engagements without faltering even for a moment, which many of his critics expected him to do more than once, but he did it with a sense of aplomb and poise that has made every Indian proud. His engagements with various world leaders at the BRICS summit showcased India’s newfound assertiveness on the world scene. His successful visits to Bhutan, Nepal and Japan where he displayed great bargaining skills and yet maintain a friendly stance catapulted India’s image into prominence in the international scene. His deft ploy of pre-empting any hostility towards the new government from neighboring nations by inviting all heads of SAARC nations to his swearing in ceremony, including Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, who was rightly taken aback by the surprise invitation, has exhibited the astuteness of his diplomacy on the international front. The greatest coup however, has been his visit to the USA, which was touted to be the most critical, and the grand finale in this series of foreign engagements of the Prime Minister. If the expectations from this trip were high, and expectedly, they were certainly not anticipated to reach the heights they eventually did. Right from the moment Modi disembarked Air India One and set foot on American soil, to the time he waved goodbye four days later, the mood among the Indo-American community in the US was one of ecstasy, euphoria, and at times even bordering on hysteria wherever Modi made an appearance or was anywhere in the vicinity. The way vociferously chanting crowds lined up the street to have a glimpse of the Indian PM as his cavalcade passed by; the way the crowds at Madison Square Garden cheered his every sentence and his every nuance; the way people celebrated with traditional attires and cultural functions on the lawns in front of the White House even as Modi held discussions with Obama, it was Modi-fever all the way, with the charismatic Prime Minister taking America by storm. Even the uneventful meeting between Obama and Modi, which could not resolve outstanding issues such as WTO trade facilitation, nuclear trade and America’s Pakistan policy among others, the camaraderie and warmth with which Obama interacted with Modi was a sight for sore eyes, and a reflection of Modi’s ability to connect personally with Obama in spite of all the differences.
With his redoubtable communication skills, Modi has won several battles leading up to his coronation as PM, and after. Yet the war, which is still to be won, is the one that will determine whether or not his name will be taken in the same breath as of the greatest personalities that Indian history has known. The road to greatness will not be traversed without passing through tough tests, and tribulations, for sure. But that is what great history is all about, after all.