Narendra Modi is the Sergey Bubka of Indian politics; Competing with himself, he's raising bar of expectations higher and higher

  • The prime minister's detractors are grudgingly admitting in private that Narendra Modi’s era is likely to extend beyond the current term.

  • It is easy to understand Modi’s political restlessness -- as opposed to the inertia we witnessed in some of his predecessors.

  • Narendra Modi has come this far in politics because of his belief that life is a journey, not a station.

Serhiy Nazarovych Bubka (better known as Sergey Bubka) is a peerless Ukrainian pole vaulter who broke the world record 35 times, in the process beating himself 14 times. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has turned into the Bubka of Indian politics. With nobody left to compete, Modi is voluntarily setting the bar higher and higher in a bid to pole vault to greater achievements.

His Olympian quest for citius, altius, fortius appears all the more incredible because, unlike in sport, the risk of falling short of expectations is much higher. But, that’s quintessential Modi, a man guided by the philosophy of Ye Dil Maange More!

 Narendra Modi is the Sergey Bubka of Indian politics; Competing with himself, hes raising bar of expectations higher and higher

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Red Fort on Thursday. PTI

The prime minister’s speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort was a classic case study of a man in pursuit of a higher motive in life. To understand his psyche, one needs to understand the context of his speech this year.

One can argue about the means. One can debate the allegations of attack on the country’s federal structure against his government. One can have a constant back-and-forth over the current lockdown in Kashmir and say that the real test of some of his recent moves lies ahead of us. But, if one looks at India’s polity from the perspective of the hoi polloi, Modi is perhaps in the best phase of his political life.

Unlike in the past, when some of his decisions had split the country vertically, the move to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir and take away its special status has been met with overwhelming approval, even from sections that were earlier his bitter critics. The measure of the success is the confusion within the Congress, which has put on the pathetic display of toeing the government line that a historical blunder has been corrected. Blunder by whom? Congress and its founding fathers. Yet, the party, especially its young brigade is running with the BJP to hunt down its Nehruvian past.

In addition, Modi is still in what one can call the honeymoon period of politics. He has returned to power with a mammoth mandate and has completely decimated the opposition and silenced the critics. His detractors are grudgingly admitting in private that Modi’s era is likely to extend beyond the current term.

The point that can be made is this: Modi is politically secure, his recent decisions have brought him more support and admiration. At a time in politics, when he could have just sat back, cruised along, taken the foot off the pedal, he is stepping on it.

He is now eyeing a $5-trillion economy, with the purpose of wealth creation for all. He is raising expectations by saying the time has come to fulfil aspirations, create jobs through government investments in projects like Bharat Mala and Sagar Mala. Alongside, he is trying to bring the vexatious problem of population control into a popular narrative.

The prime minister is committing the original sin of politics — that of making people impatient. “The nation can’t wait for incremental progress. We have to jump high (Bubka, you see), change the way we think,” he said.

The defining principle of Indian politics for a long period had once been captured by former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao. To accusations that he was a procrastinator, he had shot back by arguing that sometimes the best thing to do in politics is to do nothing (“Not taking a decision is also a decision,” he had philosophised). That theory is being turned on its head by Modi -- he is trying to hasten the collective pace of the country, prod it not just into walking fast but vaulting to new aspirations and goals.

It is easy to understand Modi’s political restlessness -- as opposed to the inertia we witnessed in some of his predecessors. Modi has come this far in politics because of his belief that life is a journey, not a station. That journey should never end, even if the original milestones have been crossed. He is someone, as we now know, believes in just marching ahead, like a panzer division programmed to keep annexing new boundaries.

There is, of course, a downside to this. This eternal quest for moving forward, the impatience for dynamism, constant action, sometimes leads to debatable decisions — demonetisation for instance — and accusations of being dictatorial. But, if you were to analyse Modi’s psyche, it would appear inspired by Howard Roark’s idea of doing his work in the best way possible to himself. “The best is a matter of standards — and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one,” Roark argues in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

There are merits and demerits of placing the destiny of a nation in just a few hands, especially in a complex, diverse and democratic country like India. Great things have been achieved by a nation led by the courage and vision of a dynamic leader. One needn’t look farther than our history, moulded and reshaped by the power of one man —Mahatma Gandhi. Unmitigated disasters have fallen on many European countries who believed in the supremacy of one leader and got swayed by their energy, ambitions and goals. Only time would place Modi in one of these categories.

But, for the moment, Modi’s vision, his zeal for leaping higher and taking the country along, portend achche din for India. Modi may or may not succeed in the pursuit of greater things. But, it certainly would not be for lack of effort or the desire to break his own record.

Updated Date: Aug 16, 2019 13:15:10 IST