No sooner did Narendra Modi enter the Taj in Delhi for the India Today Conclave 2013 than the excitement reached a completely different crescendo, in TV studios, on social media and of course at the conclave venue. In an exhaustive speech, Modi covered every minute aspect of governance ranging from the UPA's assault to the nation's federal structure, why he opposes FDI in retail, his views of relations with our neighbours to Gujarat's success in agriculture, his take on development among other things.
Seeing the speech both as an objective political observer as well as a common man, I will give full marks to Modi for touching every issue that concerns us. He gave solutions to the problems we as common citizens face as well as assured us that the best is yet to come! In this atmosphere filled with gloom and pessimism, he showed that there is still hope, only that we need to have faith in ourselves.
Here are my 5 quick reasons why I feel Modi's speech at the India Today conclave was spectacular, articulate, coherent and a speech that is expected from a true leader:
Reason 1- Aspiration and Development, not crumb throwing and populism is Governance!
Modi's take on NREGA early on in his speech gave us a wonderful insight into how the man thinks as far as matters of Governance are concerned. He showed us that a change in mindset is all it takes to deliver to the people. He asked why couldn't those in power term the NREGA as a ‘Development Guarantee Scheme' instead of merely an employment guarantee scheme. Modi hit the nail on the head when he said that it is not until we integrate the people and convince them that they are working for the nation that we will see tangible results.
Reason 2- He went where no leader even thinks of going
When was the last (infact even the first time) you heard of a political leader advocate privatization and reforms in a polity where good economics is believed to be bad politics?
The point Modi made about Railways is no small point. Apart from good economics, this is also a sneak peak into the reformist mind of Modi. For years, we have failed to add quality, comfort or dignity in our trains. Tracks are not added, stations are in a mess and the sufferers remain the common man. It is a decade since parochial Railway Ministers have diverted trains and other allocations to their home states.
In his speech, Modi challenged this very point! I was happy to hear that there is still a leader who is calling for bold reforms in a sphere that concerns the poorest of the poor in this country. More power to him!
His answer to Sandeep Bamzai on privatization was also extremely nuanced. While reaffirming that Governments have no business to be in business, Modi also said that if there is a problem with our PSUs, it must be sorted. And this is what he in Gujarat has done- not only are the state's PSUs shining but also draws maximum private sector investment contributing to the growth of the nation.
Reason 3- It is always India first!
If there was one underlying theme in Modi's speech, it was national regeneration. Modi spoke not as a Gujarati, or a person of X, Y or Z interest group but as an Indian! He put it very categorically that India needs friendly relations with her neighbours but that cannot be at the cost of our interests. By stressing on his dream to make India self reliant in producing weapons, Modi was both dreaming of a self-sufficient India and talking of ridding the nation from the web of dirty arms dealers, who along with select politicians have put a few million dollars above the pride of the nation.
Reason 4- Because he remained willing to engage...
When I first tuned into Modi's speech I thought it will be a short affair. There will be a speech followed by a few questions and we all would go home. I was proved horribly wrong. Not only did Modi speak, he spoke in style and at the same time he took questions with finesse and answered them with great detail.
In a nation where the ruling family is not ready to engage and where a Prime Minister has hardly spoken, Modi is a breath of fresh air. I have not seen a single leader either at the Centre or in the states that is willing to engage with people so comprehensively as Modi did!
Be it economics, or the cottage industry's favourite riots question, Modi appeared as a leader willing to engage and answer questions. His answer to Javed Ansari's unnecessary point on riots was something I really enjoyed hearing. When the courts and the people have given their answer not once but a large number of times, why are a handful of armchair activists hounding him!
His answer to Punya Prasoon Vajpayee's question on the inherently democratic framework of the BJP exemplifies just the class Modi is made of.
Reason 5- And most importantly, because everything he said was based on facts not hyperbole
When Rahul Kanwal tried to ask Modi on whether his Mother thought he would be Prime Minister, Modi simply said this is a discussion on development, Mothers and Fathers simply do not figure! That is NAMO for you- no sob stories on power being poison, no mother weeping, only work speaks.
Each and every point Modi made was backed with facts. Be it a plan for solid waste management, be it the revolutionary canal top solar power project, Modi backed every point he made with statistics. No one can say Modi did not come prepared; he was prepared far to well. The movie he showed before starting his speech added the much needed perspective to the discussion and gave us a fantastic idea on how Gujarat is developing.
His speech at the conclave today will be remembered as the speech of a leader who is willing to engage and who has a plan to take this country forward. On every count, our leaders have a lot to learn from Modi!
(Kishore can be followed on Twitter on @KishoreTrivedi1)