The author, Vivian Fernandes, is a well-known journalist who has been in the field for about three decades. As a keen observer of economic policy and governance in the country and a frequent visitor to Gujerat during the last six years, he is eminently qualified to write a book on our new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As the title of the book rightly suggests, he focuses on the three important pillars of Modi’s attributes- leadership, governance and performance.
Each of the ten chapters of the book has an interesting title. The kick-off starts with the fascinating victory of BJP in the recent national elections and achievement of a majority on its own at the Centre. The author calls it as a Modi tsunami arising out of his own charismatic personality, strategy and tactics, and a raising of levels of hopes and aspirations of people cutting across all differences of caste, creed or religion. It is a great opportunity that Modi has in his hands. To create a society on the basis of citizenship and not on identity and to re-engineer the BJP as a liberal and right of centre party. With a meticulously and painstakingly planned campaign and outstanding branding of Modi ( Abki baar, Modi Sarkaar), the juggernaut could just not be stopped by a weak and disintegrating opposition. The naysayers were many and very eminent people too. They questioned Modi’s emphasis on infrastructure over human development and threat to secularism.
The author is all praise for Modi for his performance as Chief Minister of Gujerat. He had a long and uninterrupted run which enabled him to keep in touch with the common people and ensure that his administration is rooted to ground realities. He made development a mass movement and not the privilege of a few intellectuals or politicians in power. The author explains how Modi dovetailed his government’s leadership with people involvement. He emphasized on ‘minimum government and maximum governance.’ Modi’s RSS background gave him the necessary organizational skills, and with his remarkable oratory he was able to capture the imagination of the audience wherever he went and convince them that “acche din aayenge.” Agricultural growth in Gujerat is an eye-catcher -8% average farm growth against a national average of 3.1%. The Krishi Mahotsav programme saw a rejuvenation of sorts in agricultural production and productivity and the author refers to it as a ‘celebration in agricultural outreach.’ Before the arrival of the monsoon about 100,000 officials from eighteen departments visit farmers in their villages to help them with testing of the soil and advise them on use of nutrients, hybrid seeds and crops for profitable cultivation.
With a cohesive administration and Modi leading from the front, minimum corruption, and use of technology, not only has Gujerat done well in economic sectors but in social sectors as well. Education levels have improved though healthcare is still lagging. The industrial sector too has made great strides in the last decade. With Modi pushing investors and entrepreneurs all the way, there has been a paradigm shift in the way the industrial segment operates. With six biennial Vibrant Gujerat investment summits held so far, Gujerat is considered the most industry-friendly state in the country. The share of manufacturing in Gujerat’s economy is 24% compared to all-India average of 16%.
Modi has reset tribal lives, says the author. Through high-yielding agriculture, dairy farming and skill development, tribal upliftment has been phenomenal. He does not believe in doles. “Give me power so that I can empower you” is his mantra. In his model, tribal farmers are not wedded to any crop. They are wedded to profit. Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana resulted in income enhancement, employable skills for the tribals and a jumpover from low yielding varieties to smart hybrids.
The author points out similarities in implementation of programmes by Modi with the Chinese and calls it the Chinese style. Modi wants Gujerat to be the industrial locomotive and the hub of industrial activity. He is likely to achieve that status for Gujerat. Gujerat was referred to by the ‘Economist’ as India’s Guangdong. It has a strong infrastructure with a dense network of good roads, huge industrial estates, 25% of its 41 ports navigable during all seasons, a 2800 km long gas grid and it is self sufficient in power. Modi strongly believes in infrastructure development for economic growth.
The author is unbiased in his assessment of Modi. He lauds his achievements. At the same time, the black marks of the Gujerat riots, his intolerance for dissent, his dictatorial ways of working, his exclusion of certain communities in his growth vision, his strong Hindutva beliefs shown during his Chief Ministership are some worrying factors which are highlighted. Will he now transform himself to a real national leader and statesman and rise above discrimination and high-handedness and make the entire development process all-inclusive in actions rather in sloganeering is something that has to be seen over time.
Vivian Fernandes expects Narendra Modi to bring method into governance of the nation, keep his administration rooted to the ground and motivated and hold his ministers accountable, going by his past performance in Gujarat. Modi is a compulsive campaigner. Modi will like to make Indian society like the Chinese society- mobilized and not argumentative. Modi wants development to be a movement, like our freedom struggle; it must be inclusive and all must wholeheartedly be involved in it. If people have a sense of ownership, the outcome has to be spectacular. In Gujarat, Modi conducted a series of campaigns: Nirmal (sanitary) Gujarat, Nirogi (healthy) Balak (child), Kanya Kelavani (girl's education), Shala Praveshotsav (school enrolment festival), Beti Bachao (save the girl child) and so on. They were all successful in varying degrees.
In conclusion, Vivian Fernandes lists a few priorities for the Prime Minister:
Restructuring of the Railways, denationalizing the coal industry and breaking-up of Coal India, ensuring that electricity flows into all villages which have electricity connection, implementation of Goods and Services Tax, introducing labour reforms and raising the level of FDI in the defence equipment manufacturing sector thereby encouraging international defence equipment manufacturers to invest in India.
The book has a foreword by Raghav Bahl , founder and ex-editor of network 18 who has known Vivian Fernandes for about two decades. He admires his ability to go into details, to make enquiries and to fortify his arguments with facts and figures. The book is objective and non-judgemental. It praises Modi where it is due and does not overlook his weaknesses. Packed with innumerable examples of Modi’s out of the box thinking and his unique and homemade model of governance, the book is bound to appeal to those readers who want to see him as he truly is. Neither overblown for his achievements nor derided for some of his shortcomings.