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A PM Firmly in the Saddle

Author: M N Buch
Publication: The New Indian Express
Date: August 6, 2014
URL:      http://www.newindianexpress.com/opinions/2014/aug/06/A-PM-Firmly-in-the-Saddle-644372.html

We are all Indians, but even more, Modi is the prime minister of the whole of India and of every Indian

Narendra Modi gained both notoriety and controversy as the chief minister of Gujarat in his first term when in 2002 after the Godhra killings of pilgrims returning from Ayodhya, major riots broke out in the districts of central and south Gujarat. Feelings against Modi in liberal circles ran so high that he was dubbed a murderer and the USA, invoking a law which prohibits the entry into America of anyone involved in racial or religious discrimination and worse, denied him a visa. The then government, using CBI and the courts, spared no effort to try and indict Modi. Surprisingly, the minister of state for home affairs in that government, in reply to a question in Parliament, said that almost 300 people had died in firings by the Gujarat police attempting to suppress the riots and that a sizeable number of rioters shot were Hindus. The same chief minister won wide acclaim for the way in which a major earthquake in Gujarat was handled and subsequently his government was held out as a role model of economic development in the state. Now that he is prime minister not only has the US government extended him an invitation to pay an official visit but also their top functionaries such as the secretary of state are virtually wooing Modi as if in a swayamvar. Which is the real Modi is a question which must be answered because now he is prime minister of India, the world’s largest democracy.

The BJP’s election strategy for 2014 was the most appropriate for the general election. The party concluded that the old leadership was worn out, fixed in a groove and unable to deliver success in an electoral campaign. That leadership was virtually put on the shelf and a new set of leaders of middle age and younger was put in place, with Modi being given leadership of the campaign. With his energy, his appeal to voters through presenting development as the main agenda of the party, by speaking directly to the young and holding out hope for the future, Modi was able to deliver an absolute majority to the BJP, thus ending more than two decades of coalition rule. This was an outstanding performance. He started well by inviting the heads of state and of government of the SAARC nations to attend his swearing-in ceremony. They all came, including Nawaz Sharif, and Modi reached out to all of them with a promise of extending India’s friendship to all the neighbours. It was a very impressive performance.

Soon after assuming power, Modi visited Bhutan and convinced the Bhutanese that India was their friend. On August 3, he visited Nepal for two days and put in a virtuoso performance when addressing the Constituent Assembly/Parliament by referring to the constitution under drafting as a document which would bind all Nepalese together. By stating that in a bouquet there are different flowers each with its own colour and fragrance, which together form a beautiful bouquet, he reached out to every Nepalese, whether a priest of Pashupatinath, an aristocratic Rana, a warrior Thapa or a Limbu or Magar. He even praised the Maoists by comparing them to Ashoka, who in the hour of victory gave up Yudh or battle and turned to Buddhism. So much so that Prachanda and Bhattarai, the two main Maoist leaders, have publicly proclaimed that Modi has won their hearts. In offering highways, information highways and transmission ways to Nepal, Modi showed that he is deeply involved in the economic progress and modernisation of that country, by making a credit line of one billion dollars available to Nepal in addition to all other aid. He has proved India’s financial commitment and by categorically stating that India would not in any way interfere in the affairs of Nepal he has given proof of goodwill. For the first time after Indira Gandhi, Modi proved that we now have a prime minister, firmly in the saddle.
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