Wharton: Leadership matters, not visa, proves Narendra Modi

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Narendra Modi is set to make yet another step forward to winning over the world's only superpower. Come March 23 and the Gujarat chief minister would deliver a keynote address at the prestigious Wharton India Economic Forum to be held in Philadelphia. Modi, however, would not be present in person and deliver his speech through video conferencing, something he is known to do to connect with the people in his own state and country.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Union minister Milind Deora, Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani, poet and scriptwriter Javed Akhtar and actor Shabana Azmi would also be present at the conference.


Modi finally in USA? A significant development

Modi's participation in the Wharton conference is significant in two ways.

First, it is taking place at a time when the Gujarat chief minister is facing resistance from the moralists from the west, particularly the USA, who are not yet ready to give him a clean chit over the Gujarat pogroms of 2002. Their numbers are surely on the decrease but yet not completely outnumbered. While countries like the UK and Denmark have decided to soften their earlier stand on Modi and the European Union also showed its eagerness to inch closer to him after acknowledging that economy is a far more important issue than morality, the USA continued to oscillate between 'yes' and 'no'.

While American representatives praised shower on Modi at this year's Vibrant Gujarat Summit, the political circles persisted with its 'no visa to Modi' stand. US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said recently that there was no question of revising the USA's stand on this issue and considerations could be made only if the Indian courts settled the cases against Modi.

An objection was also raised last year from the USA's domestic political circles when 25 powerful lawmakers wrote to the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ensure that Modi did not get a visa to visit that country ever. But despite all these talks, Modi's voice would be heard at the prestigious institute on the US soil.

Could anything be more ironical than this?

One gets a feeling that the Washington administration is handling the Narendra Modi issue in an obstinate way. May be political lobbies creating pressure on it but it must remember that popular leaders can not be handled through political manipulation. There must be a sense of pragmatism and sensitivity involved or otherwise, the rigid political decision-makers would have to bite their own pills.

The Congress has faced similar consequences in India whenever it tried to deal Modi in a hard manner. Washington must learn a lesson from that.

People don't have compulsion to reject Modi

The popular mood will prevail over the political decision if the latter doesn't conform itself to the reality. In India, the Congress had chalked out a strategy of confining Modi to Gujarat after it failed to beat him in the state elections.

But now, after Modi routed the Congress thrice on the trot, it is becoming almost impossible for the latter to keep him confined in his state. The leader has gradually begun to step outside Gujarat into the national stage and his addressing the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in New Delhi last month earned a huge applause.

The effect was so much so that now the Congress is thinking of sending Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to address the same college in a few days. Even Rahul Gandhi, generally considered a competitor to Modi, is not the party's favourite to counter Modi at the SRCC.

Youth support for Modi is a big factor

This brings us to the second aspect and it is the students' support for Modi. The BJP leader has proved his pro-youth credentials and after the success at SRCC, his image among the young constituencies is all the more soaring. The Wharton speech could be a perfect stage for the Gujarat CM to connect to more young minds and this would make 2002 look more and more distant.

There can be no denying that Modi has prepared himself well in the last one decade by stressing on development-oriented administration and this is what ultimately matters for the neo-middle class, a term perfectly coined by the leader himself a few months ago. The fact that Modi leads a model state in India also makes his task of crossing the mental barriers and enter the USA much easier. If the borders and politicians block his way, the popular sentiments will open it again.

Positive leadership always pays

Modi used the SRCC as a perfect platform and that has what catapulted him into an international students' platform. The BJP leader never spoke in negative light and projected vision, something that the youth can perfectly relate. Never once in his entire speech did Modi speak about UPA's shortcomings. He speaks on them when it matters, i.e., before the elections but not while facing the future generations.

The Americans would undoubtedly find a reliable ally in such a leader for they themselves have also preferred, during a period of gloom, a leader who just believes in a positive leadership.

If they love to listen Barack Obama's 'Wes, we can', they would also welcome Modi's view that the 'glass is always full'.

Positive leadership has no alternative. Don't know why the Americans are making easy things difficult.

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