What the hell has gone wrong with well healed Indians? They either worship or hate Narendra Modi. There is no middle ground. As far as I can tell Modi is a human being, who could be fallible and he could also do some good things, right? But in Delhi at-least I meet only two sets of people, those who deify him and others who demonize him.
I am not allowed to say – Modi’s OK. The Modi types immediately take it as a insult of the grossest variety; and the Modi haters consider it as giving in to fascist right wing religious forces. And oh yes, these days there are also the AAP types who label that as having sold out to big business.
Of all the people I meet, the intellectual types seem to be the worst in labeling him as completely white or black. Followed by the well degreed professionals, and the business guys seem to be not far behind. The most sensible appear to be the less educated, lower income types – who appear to be the most level-headed in their assessment (“kuchh to koshish karega, par akela kya kar sakta hai”!)
Let me hazard a guess on this madness. India’s government has stopped functioning as doing anything requires the bureaucrat to follow so many processes, and there also are so many laws with so many checks and balances, that no human can get anything done in the proper manner of things. Society therefore needs to create super-humans who can make this system function. And so, Modi is India’s first superhuman PM aspirant. On the other side, the negative also needs to be very powerful, so that Modi can stand out in this sea of generally corrupt and crooked politicians. And so those that hate him are creating the image of a person worse than Hitler.
Why are strong leaders important at the helm of an organization? When the organization is not functioning well, it is essentially because the command and control mechanism within is not working well – either the commands are flawed, or the control is missing, or both – the last being the current Indian case.
There is general agreement that we need to get the controls right – so that leakage, weak law and order conditions, poor project implementation, etc. kind of problems are addressed well. Therefore Modi is selling himself as getting the ‘controls’ or ‘the implementation right’ kind of person.
But large organizations also need a good quality command structure. Good internally consistent set of commands can occur in two ways. The first is when a strong internal conceptual framework exists – as in the case of leftists, or was true in the case of Nehru ji. I don’t think Narendra Modi has that internal framework – All his great successes in Gujarat have been implementation successes, not reform successes (But neither do Kejriwal or Rahul for that matter.) PMs such as Narsimha Rao and Vajpayee, had some idea that they wanted to free up things, but probably themselves did not have a strong economic framework in place.
They therefore created a set of powerful ministers who systematically went about doing what they believed in, got credit for, and got support from their respective PM.* Modi however does not have such people around him yet. So even if Modi has that inclination (which itself is questionable) he does not have the people around him.
And there-in lies my Modi-problem, he may get a few things right, but his instincts are that of a politician not a statesman; he will need help from solid people. And he does not appear to have them around him yet. Modi’s rule therefore may be good but not great.
This is one of the biggest problems with very large organizations, the whole system becomes more and more dependent on the person at the helm as the organization weakens. Sometimes the person at the helm also weakens the organization to make himself more important – Indira Gandhi was a classic example, Laloo is another. But Modi is looking for greatness, he is unlikely to do that I think.
Footnote: * Narsimha Rao used Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram AN Varma and Rakesh Mohan to great effect. Vajpayee used Jaswant Singh, Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha to name a few. Compared to them the current NDA has a weak set of people available for Modi to draw from.