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2 June, 2019 10:26:27 AM

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The single-minded determination of Narendra Modi

Family and personal bonding apart, Modi has also reached out to world leaders and those on the other side of the political spectrum
Kumkum Chadha
The single-minded determination of Narendra Modi

In the past week, several images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been flashed. Soon after the BJP’s landslide victory, Modi has been in a conciliatory mood, building bridges, be it through his visits to party patriarchs L.K.Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi or his more recent one to India’s former President Pranab Mukherjee.
His visiting long-time friend and associate Arun Jaitley amply demonstrated that Modi values relationships: unless ofcourse they have turned sour.

Rewind to 2014 and his pitching for Nripendra Mishra, currently Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, by amending the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, is enough evidence that Modi will go that extra mile for people he values. Equally, this also demolishes the contention that instead of being a solo player that Modi is believed to be, he is a ‘relationship man’.
The first is thanks to his complete disconnect with his family save his mother whose blessings he often seeks: he did publicly in 2014 and now in 2019, not to mention the times he has privately. One of Modi’s USP is that he has no family to benefit and thus remains a solo player who does not have any beneficiaries to milk the system unlike his adversaries who often compromise the larger good for the sake of their children. Therefore, even while being criticized for being the ekala cholo, walk alone, man, absence of emotional ties gives him the strength that few have. Even in the case of a tall leader and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his foster family’s controversies had somewhat blemished his otherwise credible tenure. Modi has no strings attached and therefore can afford to walk with his head held high. He can also talk tough and take people to task as and when, thus earning him the arrogant and somewhat dictatorial label.

 But that is one side of the story: the other being quite the opposite.  When it comes to his associates, Jaitley and Amit Shah, to mention the first twoamong equals as it were, Modi has demonstrated that there is a premium on relationships. Apart from both being his solid support system in a complex world of politics and governance, Modi’s bonding with Jaitley and Shah shows up his need for friends.  

When Jaitley lost the election in 2014, Modi made it a point to reach out and induct him in the first round of his Cabinet formation. That apart, he entrusted him with important portfolios Finance and subsequently Defence.  Till health issues cropped up and Jaitley was a bit out of circulation, he was Modi’s go-to man.

 It is in the same spirit that Modi, following Jaitley’s letter to opt out of the new Cabinet, called on Jaitley. While reports aver that it was to ask Jaitley to reconsider his decision, the gesture went beyond that: it demonstrated Modi taking a personal call rather than a political one. It was less about Jaitley’s induction and more about  actually driving up to his house as Prime Minister to tell him that nothing has changed.  

Another person who goes back a long way with Modi is former foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, also the newly appointed Minister of External Affairs. Jaishankar replaced Sushma Swaraj under whom he has served as Foreign Secretary.

 While Jaishankar’s competence has never been in doubt, he does share a personal bonding with Prime Minister Modi. Like he did for his Man Friday Mishra, Modi went that extra mile for Jaishankar too. In 2015, Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh was removed to make way for Jaishankar.

 The association goes back many years. When Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat, Jaishankar was instrumental in getting an agreement for a plant in Gujarat which then was a significant investment that China had made in India. Jaishankar was then Indian Ambassador to China.

 After Modi became Prime Minister, Jaishankar as India’s Ambassador to the US, smoothed his passage to the US after a decade long visa ban. Modi, it is said, holds Jaishankar in high esteem both personally and professionally.

 Family and personal bonding apart, Modi has also reached out to world leaders and those on the other side of the political spectrum. In the first in 2014 he had invited SAARC heads of states for the swearing in. This time around it were leaders of BIMSTEC who  witnessed Modi’s swearing in.  

His visiting former President Pranab Mukherjee is yet another example of putting the personal above politics.  It could however be argued that this is for mere optics be it breaking bread with Murli Manohar Joshi or touching L.K.Advani’s feet but one cannot take away the fact that these went a long way in thawing Modi’s rigid persona.  

 Till Rahul Gandhi hit headlines by suddenly hugging Modi in Parliament, the characteristic hug was Modi’s USP. Every time he met a world leader he would give him a bear hug. Many dismissed it as a publicity gimmick but the truth is that the Modi’s bear hug be it to US President Barack Obama or to Chinese President Xi Jinping broke barriers. It also helped Modi form a personal rapport. It is in the same strain that the large attendance of world leaders present at the swearing in must be seen.

 Another example of Modi’s reach-out is inviting the families of  50 BJP workers who died in poll violence in West Bengal. Irrespective of whether it was a politically astute move the fact remains that it touched a chord and demonstrated that the Prime Minister is sensitive and recognizes the sacrifice made by party workers.

 The fact that the numbers of those attending Modi’s swearing in since his first, have dramatically multiplied only strengthens the premise that Modi will build on past relationships and forge new ones. This is also evident from the fact that Modi’s new Cabinet has representation from most of its allies including Shiromani Akali Dal, Lok Janshakti Party, Shiv Sena and Republican Party of India. The JD(U) too was offered a Cabinet berth but preferred to stay out.

 The inclusion of allies is significant because team Modi has the numbers and does not need allies support. But accommodating them with a berth each in the Union Cabinet is to signal that the new government appreciates and values their association and will continue the relationship in the same spirit irrespective of numbers. The message is loud and clear and that being that Modi, the  much-misunderstood solo player, has come of age and is now willing to take people along.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com) 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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