Updated: October 7, 2021 6:51:32 pm
Prime Minister Modi completed 20 continuous years as the head of an elected government on October 7. In any democratic society, and that too in as diverse and contested a polity as ours, this is a unique and significant blessing bestowed by the people of India and a reflection of Modi’s sustained popularity.
These 20 years have seen multiple achievements, which have in turn reinforced Modi’s popularity and have led to his continuous re-elections. However, is there anyone defining quality, one overarching theme that succinctly encapsulates the philosophy of Modi and, therefore, the phenomenon that he has become?
The argument that this essay makes is that there is. The essence of Modi’s life – even before he came to public office and certainly after he assumed it – is that of a Relentless Essayer or Amrit Prayaasi.
If convinced about the cause that he has picked up, Modi simply does not ever give up. He may not immediately succeed, and often, the short-term results may be suboptimal — a few times he may have initially failed too — but he never gives up. It is this relentlessness – Amrit Prayaas – that builds up year after year and the compounding effect far exceeds any projections that extrapolators or academic theory can predict.
There are countless examples of causes Modi has picked up where he has been mocked for the choice or simply the audacity to dream that big. And yet in all such cases, Modi has prevailed due to his Amrit Prayaas. Think of Swachh Bharat and building toilets – Modi was simply mocked, the cause seen as being unfit for a Prime Minister. Yet, it became a mass movement – from households to media houses – India was declared ODF free and sanitation coverage reached almost 100 per cent when it was languishing at 40 per cent in 2014. Or think of Digital Payments where Modi was mocked for having the audacity to dream big. UPI was launched in mid-2016. In February 2017, in a debate in the Rajya Sabha, a former finance minister, in a rather caustic tone, mockingly asked how will a tomato or a potato seller in a village fair use digital payments when they do not have internet, electricity to charge phones or even the knowledge to operate such digital systems? By the end of 2020, India had overtaken China by a substantial margin to become the number one digital payments ecosystem in the world – a revolution powered by the same tomato and potato sellers and other such small vendors.
There are hundreds of such examples. From the scepticism and even resistance of the then RBI governor about Jan Dhan to Jan Dhan becoming a world model of financial inclusion and the bedrock of the DBT paradigm, to the revolution that Ujjwala brought into more than eight crore homes.
This entire journey started in Gujarat where the famous Modi model first emerged. Before Modi, Gujarat primarily was a trading state. Within just over a decade, Modi had successfully converted Gujarat into an agricultural miracle state and a manufacturing and industrial hub with investors pouring in from India and abroad.
But is Modi able to achieve these remarkable results primarily due to relentless effort or is there more to it? Over the years, even before his days in office, Modi developed a three-pronged toolkit to complement his efforts. These tools have held him in good stead in these 20 years as well.
First, is Modi’s unimpeachable integrity and intent. Even when Modi takes tough decisions – as he did in Gujarat with respect to electricity reforms – no one really doubts his intent. For a politician, this is a priceless asset.
Second, Modi’s constant effort to rely on first-hand, experimental learning. From his young days in the 1970s till today, he has never been out of touch with the mood of the nation because he does not let a filter between him and the public colour his learnings about India and its people.
Third, is the philosophy of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. It may sound simplistic but is a revolutionary mindset change. In Gujarat, it was about five crore Gujaratis and as PM, it is about 130 crore Indians. Because he does not see India as divided into regions or castes or religions but as one entity, he can frame policies for all and relentlessly pursue them.
Because Modi is such an honest follower of the philosophy of doing karma and not bothering about the result, destiny has also been kind to him. Generations waited for the day to see Article 370 being annulled. Modi himself organised the Ekta Yatra around this theme in the early 1990s. In 2019, as PM, he oversaw the dream come true. For half a millennium, Sanatan Dharmis struggled to re-establish the temple at Shri Ram’s birthplace. Modi himself was the organiser of the Somnath leg of the Ram Rath Yatra in 1990. As Prime Minister in 2020, he laid the foundation stone of a Grand Ram Temple and construction is in full swing!
If there is one lesson to be learned from these 20 years, it is the value of Amrit Prayaas. As we enter the Amrit Kaal – the year between the 75th and 100th year of India’s Independence, imagine the scale of possibilities if all of us, in our little ways, become Amrit Prayaasis.
The writer is CEO, Bluekraft Digital Foundation and was earlier director (content) MyGov
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