‘Modi@20: Dreams Meet Delivery’: A book on PM Modi’s model of governance launched in Delhi Image Credit: Gulf News

Those who know India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi — for long — know that its hard to bracket him under any one label. Modi performs on a big stage, has “intellectual flexibility” and possesses a surprising knack to turn the tables in an impossible situation.

A new book launched in Delhi, Modi@20 Dreams Meet Delivery, is a compilation of chapters written by the who’s who of India — from Home Minister Amit Shah to the National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval and the spiritual leader Sadhguru, among others.

Foreign minister S. Jaishankar has written a fascinating chapter on the Prime Minister, giving interesting insight into Modi’s foreign policy. He writes, “PM is autodidactic by nature with a perpetual desire to comprehend the world better.”

He adds, “One of the shifts that PM Modi brought into Indian foreign policy is its focus on leveraging external relationships for domestic development.” Jaishankar lays out the paradox that Narendra Modi is.

At the event, the foreign minister noted that Modi is a visionary but also a person of great details — culturally very deep into our heritage but a great moderniser, a strong nationalist but a believing internationalist.

There are many books on Modi published recently including Price of The Modi Years by Aakar Patel, highly critical of his government.

It’s no big deal to publish a book on an incumbent Prime Minister, written by his colleagues and prominent people.

Invariably such books are an eulogy, but Modi@20 Dreams Meet Delivery is a book that’s rich in information and anecdotes.

Most contributors — from Amit Shah to author Amish Tripathi and Olympian P.V. Sindhu touch upon Modi’s work style. Sindhu says, on a lighter note, how Modi motivated her before the Tokyo Olympic 2020 with an incentive to perform better so that, “We would have ice cream” on the return, which she actually got after winning the Olympic Bronze.

This book explains how Modi built his persona, over the years, as Amit Shah describes “with pace of work, acuity of observation and eye for detail.”

Noted author Amish Tripathi says, for the country to remain united and strong, “Dharma must be revived institutionally. Our traditions and cultures must be embraced by our governing apparatus and cultural elite. Prime Minister Modi understands this.”

He contextualises all the things Modi government has been doing under the PRASHAD scheme to redevelop holy places in India. He says, “Modi wears his cultural pride on his sleeve.”

NSA Ajit Doval’s essay on the PM gives a glimpse of Modi’s approach to national security. Doval talks about the Ladakh border stalemate with China, too, giving details.

Anantha Nageswaran, chief economic adviser to finance ministry, has given a long list of Modi’s efforts to formalise the economic policy. He notes that the agenda of the constitutional reforms of the seventh schedule is “all-right up his alley.”

Economist Arvind Panagriya, Nandan Nilekani and banker Uday Kotak have described their respective first meeting with Modi and how impressed they were. Nilekani stood on Congress ticket in May 2014 election. In June, as he was packing his bags to move to Bangaluru, he sought time of newly elected PM Modi.

The co-founder of Infosys notes, “To my utter astonishment, I got an appointment within 24 hours, at a time convenient to me.” He talks a lot about Modi’s contribution behind Digital India and says, “Modi understands technology intuitively …”

Psephologist Pradeep Gupta talks lucidly about how Modi has changed elections and electioneering forever. He recounts numerous yatras (political pilgrimages) that Modi undertook before and after he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001.

Gupta talks about electioneering devised by Modi during Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) in 1987 that changed his and Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) fortune forever. Modi’s rise began when BJP won the AMC election for the first time under his watch.

Amit Shah and Modi met during this game-changer election in 1987. Modi was general secretary of the state BJP and Shah was secretary of the city unit of BJP in Ahmedabad. Their jugalbandi (partnership) started with the historic victory in the city.

Shah has also written fine details of what all he has learnt under Modi. He draws upon Modi’s connect with the masses.

Narendrabhai, as Amit Bhai addresses him, gave him one advice in 80s. Modi told him that every village is likely to have two major candidates for the post of sarpanch (headman). In those days either Congress or Janata Dal would win elections in Gujarat. The loser would typically be relegated and sidelined.

Shah writes, “Modi asked us to target the runner-up as part of the party membership drive. The rationale was razor sharp. The loser in the sarpanch contest would still have 30-40 per cent of the vote.”

Modi knew it wasn’t enough but still estimable. If the loser joined BJP, it was enough to add a sizeable number of voters to the party and in addition, the party got a notable micro-level leader of some influence.

Shah also recounts “Many years ago, in a thoughtful moment in Gandhinagar, I remember him telling me, “One day our party has to come to office in Delhi with a parliamentary majority of its own. Only then we can show that world what the BJP’s model of government can achieve.”

Of course, this book is mostly by Team Modi insiders and those who like the Prime Minister’s policies, so it doesn’t offer answers to some of the controversies that surround Modi and his government.

However, readers do get an authentic idea of Modi’s work ethic.

It is surprising that Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Nirmala Sitharaman haven’t been invited by the editors to give their insights.

Few celebrities have written their feedback for the book. This includes the noted actor Aamir Khan, who was once a critic of Modi. He finds Modi ‘full of grace and dignity.’

Anand Mahindra, chairman of Mahindra Group, one of India’s biggest business conglomerates, shares how he once referred to the Prime Minister in a particularly controversial debate in Parliament, where Modi appeared unflappable.

Mahindra writes, “He looked at me with unusual concentration and said, “I live in the moment ... The problem of the world won’t be solved by being distracted and trying to address everything at once.”

Mahindra concludes, “I have always come away with unexpected inputs on how to take control of my own mind; how to make it quiet and capable of facing myriad external challenges. I always came away thinking: that’s not what I went to his office to discuss … how did that conversation come about?”