Disclaimer – I’m not going to let statistics dominate what I’m going to write, so brace for reasonable approximations and extrapolations.
- Use of technology
Okay, I’ve put this right on top based on my personal inclination. Even with consideration that BJP was the first political party to adopt technology in India, the way Modi has chosen to connect to people using technology is impressive. Twitter talks, Google hangouts, Facebook pages, websites, live telecasts, texts, TV – you name and he has reached out to Indians using it. Modi has talked about technology (which he considers India’s brain strength) solving day-to-day problems for India’s poor – this could prove to be a turning point. For a nation crowded with well-funded NGOs and several socialist schemes run by the government, 1 in every 3 persons in India earns less than $1.25 per day. Poverty is one of the biggest challenges India faces despite allocating Billions of Taxpayers’ rupees (which in turn, amounts to a fiscal debit). However, Modi’s ideas like technology for transparency, technology for correcting the omnipresent corruption in India, technology put to use for better agricultural output are well in-line with India’s priorities.
- Presidential-style fight in Indian elections
You like it or not but this general election is now a mandate for Modi. British way of electing (first to the finish line wins) has not worked too well for India. A big percentage of people around India (even where there’s scanty BJP presence) will have Modi on their mind (positively or negatively) when they go out and vote. India is making history with this individual-centric presidential-style of electing its leader. I’m not going to comment on whether good or bad but it’s definitely a never-seen-before.
- Appeal to Indians to become job creators instead of job seekers
Again, this sparks the entrepreneurial me! When I first heard this statement, I was taken aback. I’ve never heard any India leader (be she in politics, in government or private industry, in any public sphere) talking about starting a venture. Startups, small & medium businesses, wealth creators have always been looked down upon in the Indian society (except for a few communities). No good global business was founded in India. 1 in every 7 persons on this earth is an Indian and we take pride in serving well, serving loyally – Modi’s vision shatters that aspiration and challenges the youngsters to create jobs instead of lining up for one. When you consider that in the coming decades, India is going to provide majority of the fresh and young workforce to the world, this becomes significant. Single-window clearance for starting a new business has the potential to alter Indian economy.
- Vision for foreign policy
It’s hard to believe but India (till this date) does not have a strategic foreign policy. Covering up the war defeat to China, celebrating victories against Pakistan, complaining about cross-border Pakistan-sponsored terrorism does NOT count. For once, we have a PM candidate who talks about learning from China and Korea, building business ties with Japan, adopting agri-tech from Israel, tough stand on border security. If even a part of this plan realizes, India will be seen as a strong strategic partner around the world.
- Breaking away from the populist agenda
For decades, we Indians are used to the mainstream populism dominating election campaigns. We have heard “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (hail the soldier, hail the farmer), “Garibi hatao” (end to poverty). Modi on the other hand, has managed to carve out a multi-point campaign. For the first time, there’s no one single priority – Modi talks about a mix of national and some local issues wherever he speaks.
- Ordinary person gaining popularity
I’ve kept the messiest for the end. For several decades Indian prime ministers (and political leaders in general) have been rich and well-educated (some exceptions like Shastri who was not rich). Many of them were research scholars. When you consider India’s literacy rate at 75% in 2011 (not accepted globally) and that an average Indian is high-school educated, you can easily figure that India has almost always had an elite leader. The English-speaking intellectual class of India has always taken pride in its elite leaders who are usually disconnected from the ground realities. Much like the kingdom/monarchy-era, even the poor and the less privileged have worshipped and chosen people with good family background, degree-holders more often than not. On the other hand, Modi an ordinary chaiwala (tea-seller) will not find a seat in Indian intellectuals’ living rooms. People would outright reject opinions of a person from such a humble background. He doesn’t look like a leader material to India, he doesn’t speak well in English. Even his Hindi is not ‘classy’. He’s a total sadakchhaap (commoner). The thought of Modi leading India is extremely uncomfortable for India’s elite who take pride in elaborate living-room discussions and pondering over speeches while doing nothing. In a society where a house-help is treated with lower stature than the one she helps, a chaiwala as the nation’s first person is a disruptive image. Many political commentators, media gurus, business leaders, Nobel laureates, writers are up against Modi because they’re disturbed by the idea of one-of-them-leading-them. Modi by all means is ordinary, Modi has worked hard on ground, Modi is a doer, Modi doesn’t even have a conventional Indian family let aside having an influential one. India’s ever-thinking, never-doing intellectuals have not benefitted her – the mediocre state of the country in governance, trade, economy, security, sports account to a harsh example. Narendra Modi changes all that.