The following article has been written for Niti Central. Reproducing it here for reference.
At his massively attended rally in Hyderabad recently, Narendra Modi told his listeners an interesting factoid. September 17 happens to be both his birthday and Hyderabad’s Liberation Day from the Nizam’s rule. I made a mental note of this so that it will be easier to remember his birthday! However, at that point of time, none of us in the crowd had an inkling that by the time his birthday comes, he will have been crowned the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP — an honour that only Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani have had so far.
The rise and rise of Narendra Modi in the BJP is exceptional. It must have been an overwhelmingly emotional moment for many people within the BJP to see the journey of Narendra Modi from being a part of the cadre to being their leader. We read about such stories in novels, but this is reality. Realms and realms have been written about his rise; his achievements; his vision; his habits; and even his kurtas!
This article does not aim to revisit those points, but will be a more personal account of how, over the years, my skepticism with regard to Modi changed to overwhelming support for his model of growth. I strongly believe there must be hundreds of people out there who have undergone a transformation like me in how they viewed Modi then and how they view him now.
Before the 2002 riots in Gujarat, I guess Modi was not well-known outside of Gujarat. Post those dastardly riots, Modi became the topic of discussion everywhere across the country. The allegations against him flew thick and fast. He was portrayed as someone who deliberately allowed the riots to take place and did little to stop the violence. The allegations just never stopped coming.
Those were the days when ordinary, gullible students like me relied more on the existing big players in the mainstream media than anyone else. We believed almost every single allegation to be true and could not figure out how Modi managed not only to stay in office but even win an election by a two-thirds majority. Even at dining table discussions, I used to argue that Modi doesn’t fit into the larger scheme of things of our country (don’t ask me what that even means — it just sounded fashionable then!). His 2007 election victory in the State broke some myths about his governance model, but did not shatter any of the serious allegations that gullible folks like me still continued to believe. I always had one question on my mind — Of what use is this development if there is no security?
The influence of blogs started picking up during this time (2007-2008) and that’s when gullible folks like me, for the first time ever, started to read about the counter view-point. I still found it hard to believe these arguments. I always wondered how big media could be so wrong. How can they deliberately cheat their readers or viewers? Then I started hearing Modi’s speeches. Most of the times, I found them to be full of content, as opposed to rhetoric. This content ranged from his views on specific developments in agriculture to power sector reforms to strong leadership in the country. Though impressed, and sometimes inspired by his achievements, the question of 2002 still hung heavy on my mind.
In 2009, I wrote in my blog that Modi can never be the Prime Ministerial candidate because of the 2002 riots. I wrote this while admitting that he was the best administrator in the country. My assessment then supported Sushma Swaraj. Then social media happened. First, the lies of charlatans like Teesta Setalvad were beginning to get exposed on these platforms. The SIT report explained in detail that every single allegation against Narendra Modi by this ‘cottage industry’ (one of the many famous coinages by folks on social media) was outright false. That SIT report brought to closure so many doubts I had in my mind (and am pretty sure, the minds of hundreds of people).
Narendra Modi started interacting more with people and started listing out his Government’s achievements in detail. There was little rhetoric and more substance when he spoke. It amazed me to see one leader have such great command of the nuances of the implementation stage of various projects. Some called it micro-management, some called it dictatorship, but for those who enjoyed the fruits of those projects, all this didn’t matter. Their lives got better, not worse!
Then the Congress Government in our State (Andhra Pradesh) started imposing two to fourteen-hour power cuts in Andhra Pradesh in various areas. At one end, Modi was declaring to the world that he provides 24-hour power supply to all households in his State and on the the other, here we were, enjoying up to 14 hours of power cuts every single day! Now the speeches made more sense to us. There is development in Gujarat, and more importantly, there is security too. There has not been a single riot in Gujarat since 2002. In a State torn by such strife for long, to have no riots for 11 years is no mean feat.
Looking back, Narendrabhai’s persistence and patience amaze the likes of me. What does it take to have such a single-minded focus for development amidst such a vitriolic atmosphere? How does one get the perseverance to wait for such fantastic results to counter (many baseless) allegations? However, there was this small doubt that I had in mind — is this pro-Modi wave limited to social media?
I had the opportunity to visit his Hyderabad rally where I was bowled over by how one man can inspire so much participation, enthusiasm and hope! Coming from a State where film stars (with two films) are accorded demigod-like status, I found it hard to swallow that nearly one lakh people turned up and celebrated the arrival of a political leader, that too in today’s age of political cynicism (the ‘all politicians are bad’ argument).
Is he perfect? Obviously not. No one is perfect – everyone makes mistakes. Everyone says things they shouldn’t have. He would have had his share of goof-ups and failures in developmental governance, but from what we have seen, he learns from them. He is very receptive to feedback and tries to make the best of the resources. A case in point would be the malnutrition campaign against him by these charlatans. Modi has given them a befitting reply in one of the media conclaves recently.
He has himself asked to be hanged if he is found guilty of the crimes the likes of Teesta Setalvad and the ‘cottage industry’ accuse him of. One cannot disagree with Modi’s statement – if he is found guilty, he must be punished. If not, the people of this country have a right to be administered by a man of fine acumen. Is this a fan mail? Perhaps. But I have no qualms if you wish to classify it so. Narendra Modi has transformed people like me through his sheer willpower, development work, and achievements. The transformation in our thought process is not because a few bloggers have tried to interpret a few reports. It is because Narendra bhai has actually achieved substantial results, making it easier for us to take a decision.
Happy Birthday, Narendrabhai! In whatever small way I can, I will put in my earnest efforts in helping you and the BJP win the 2014 election. That is the least I can do for a man who has taught us so much. Happy Birthday once again!