What is Narendra Modi's style of governance? How, with no experience in government, has he run what many think to be India's best governed state?
His biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay asked Modi how he handled the bureaucracy. Modi said he applies himself independently to issues and asks why things cannot work in the way that he has simplified them. He gives the example of providing 24-hour electricity to homes: “I asked my officers where was the problem? I used to be told that there is a lot of power theft... that there is not enough power generation. So I asked them why don’t you segregate the feeders — let one go to the villages for the homes and another for the agricultural fields.”
Modi says the officers laughed when he said this, but it worked so well that “we are getting kudos from the entire country because of this”.
Recently I had an exchange with someone who has worked with Modi and observed his style of functioning. These observations are worth reproducing:
Picking the best man for the job
I have seen the workings of Gujarat from the inside (and) worked with governments at the state and the centre and there is a difference of cheese and chalk.I have seen the ability of Modi to pick and choose and empower able technocrats and bureaucrats. He has a keen eye for that.
He himself does not have to be intellectually and technologically strong himself. But few have the talent to sniff out good people as he does. His biggest fault is that he brooks no criticism. But I do know some bureaucrats who very mildly will show him the alternative view."
Jekyll and Hyde
I think there is a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in him. Dr Jekyll is the statesman Modi. Quick thinker, understands issues that are complex quite fast. He is a bit too inclined towards growth of all kinds of industry without sufficient application of the rigour required to see if they are good in the long-term, and is a little soft on environmental issues but otherwise his decisions have a strong, solid base.
See the education sector for example. Despite what the media and NGOs will shout and scream regarding education in Gujarat, go to the Centre and they will tell you that the institutional framework of school education in Gujarat is stronger than elsewhere and they learn lessons from Gujarat and implement them in the rest of the country. It is one of the few states where land under agriculture has increased over the past decade. We know about the power situation (that Gujarat is better off than other states)..."
Mr Hyde is the political Modi... (regarding the riots) I would give him a shade of benefit of doubt due to his relative inexperience as a CM at that time."
Modi as PM
"If he were to become Prime Minister minister, he will have an excellent set of technocrats and bureaucrats. I already can name some who will be in Delhi. But were he to become PM, who would be his ministerial colleagues?
I see the dismal state in Gujarat. I also see his contempt of his ministers. How they are bypassed and decisions taken by him and the bureaucrats of the department without the minister being involved. I have myself been a beneficiary of this efficiency... But that is autocratic even if expedient and good for the State in the short run. That would not work at the Centre. Would he complete his term as PM? I don't know. His own party may destroy him.
But even if he is there for 3-4 years, he will put governance and institutions in place which I hope will not be easy to dismantle by the Congress. I hope at least that the Congress does not return for another 2 decades if India has to go forward."
"Modi is difficult to like, yes of course, but it is equally difficult to not admire so many things that he has put in place. And most of them are not those that he shouts about."