Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi has yet again hit the cover of the TIME magazine which has given him a thumping write-up. Remember, the magazine enjoys a readership of 25 million and to make it to its cover is no mean feat.
Under the title, “Modi means business — But can he lead India”, it extols the achievements of Modi in such glowing terms as to make any Indian reader and wonder whether it is really all about a State or a politician in his own country. It talks about the State’s phenomenal success story in all-round development, its emergence as the auto-hub of India with an expected capacity of 700,000 cars in 2014, the 24-hour uninterrupted power supply guaranteed to both business enterprises and farmers in the field, and a streamlined and efficient bureaucracy.
What the run-of-the-mill political bigwigs would find most galling is about the State being free from corruption and about the family of Modi being not at all visible.
The TIME’s comment that Modi “does not put his faith on public display” and that, but for a picture of Swami Vivekananda, he has no religious icons in his office, must be a revelation not only to ‘secularists’ for whom Modi is the whipping boy but to the general public as well. The commentary does not even once make any reference to the 2002 post-Godhra disturbances.
Its punch line is: “…When others think of someone who can bring India out of the mire of chronic corruption and inefficiency, (and) of a firm, no-nonsense leader who will set the nation on a course of development that might finally put it on par with China, they think of Modi.” This is incredible tribute by any standards. There is no point in being churlish or petty in reacting to the praises repeatedly heaped on him, not only by TIME, but also by some other publications of international repute. They stand out all the more prominently in the light of the fact that no other Chief Minister has been considered worthy of such recognition.
They can only come out of some deeply felt compelling urge to write about him. Otherwise, there is no reason why when there is so much happening in the entire world and so many other issues are there to be taken note of, these magazines should focus so much on the leader of a State in India, and give him so much space so often.
This gives a measure of the extent of the awe and admiration inspired by Modi.
There is no doubt that all other political leaders, particularly those outside the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or, perhaps, even including them, will find this most discomfiting! Their discomfiture must be all the more acute for the simple reason that it is impossible to dismiss these laudatory articles as politically motivated or stemming from a saffron mindset.
They are by analysts and observers who have no political axe to grind vis-à-vis Narendra Modi nor anything to gain by propping him up. They are by persons with a deep comparative grasp of world affairs and political personalities whose critical faculties are sharp and who are not afraid of calling a spade a spade.
So, they would not have built up Modi in such an eloquent and effusive manner without going deeply into every relevant factor relating to his performance and without cross-checking it with different sections of the opinion from grass roots to the top echelons of officialdom.
The question must still be asked: Where does Modi go from here? It is indubitable that, TIME or no TIME, he is, on all accounts, the most dynamic and effective public functionary today. It must be borne in mind at the same time that he is home-brewed and rough-hewn and has so far shone on his home ground where he knew his way about and the ambience was favourable for pulling off the Modi magic.
The complexities, chicaneries and machinations of national politics are quite something else. Maybe, if he were to lead a Government composed of the BJP with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, he will be able to live up to the reputation he made in Gujarat.
But if it were a coalition in which he is liable to be pulled hard in different directions by its ruthless and rapacious constituents, the prospect is not that clear. Even so, I hope that in the coming elections, the people will opt for a change from the present effete dispensation, and Modi will get a chance to show his mettle.