Any dispassionate observer of India would agree that India is underdeveloped in practically every sense of the term. What’s worse is that India has always had the potential to do much better. India’s failure to develop is a disappointing tale of how disastrous lack of able leadership can be. India does not lack any of the factors – material, social, cultural – necessary for development, and yet it consistently failed to reach an easily attainable goal. For decades on end, India has been on the verge of changing course but slides back into the status quo. One is forced to the inescapable conclusion that the political will to develop is missing.
Economic growth and development is not just a matter of economics. Economics informs the question of economic prosperity – which is the necessary foundation of development — but it alone does not determine the outcome, any more than a map determines the destination. The map helps in reaching the destination but the destination depends on the objectives of the traveler. The objectives of a country’s leaders translated through the policies they espouse dictate its fate. Political will is the guiding light that illuminates the path to success or failure. India’s failures can be directly attributed to the myopic, self-serving, unintelligent, uninspired and uninspiring leaders it has had the misfortune to have.
Perhaps a country deserves the leaders it gets. In any complex system such as a large economy, circular causations and feedback loops ensure that many of the variables are determined within the system. A prosperous society wisely chooses good leaders, which in turn makes for greater prosperity, which then gives rise to even wiser leaders. Countries can get trapped in vicious circles of poverty and poor leaders, or rise in a virtuous circle of enlightened leaders and rising prosperity. It is rare but not entirely impossible that a leader out of character with the prevailing scenario emerges and dramatically changes the trajectory of a nation. Perhaps the change in leadership happens because of an invisible underlying change in the collective character of the people. An old Indian saying says that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
One can sense a change in the collective consciousness of India. It is barely perceptible but it is growing in intensity. It is this: people are realizing that India is missing committed leaders who care about the country and not about their own enrichment at the cost of the country’s future. People sense a change coming about and that India will finally be able to achieve its potential. However, change always threatens those who flourished under the old order.. Even as the emancipation from the chains of servitude is around the corner and the sweet smell of freedom is in the air, forces inimical to progress and change rise in synchrony to keep Indians chained to backwardness and poverty. Indeed they are the ones who engineered India’s poverty for their own selfish ends. India’s progress is not in their interest and quite expectedly they struggle the most against the change.
All these musings were prompted by the case of Shri Narendra Modi. Around ten years ago, Gujarat’s fate changed and Narendrabhai became the Chief Minister of the state. I have keenly observed his leadership over the years, with growing admiration and respect for him. As a student of economic development, I have learned that development is a function of economic policies, and economic policies are derived from objectives, and leaders have objectives. So in a sense, if you follow what a leader does, you can deduce his or her objectives.
What Narendrabhai has achieved in Gujarat is worth marveling about. Much has been written about Gujarat’s progress under his leadership and I will not repeat it here. What’s worth noting is that he has achieved all this while under adversity. The more he achieved, the greater the threat he presented to the powers that be; and consonant with the positive changes in Gujarat, they increased their campaign of ruthless vilification and character assassination against him.
Adversity, it is said, reveals character. Shri Modi is study of how to meet adversity and overcome them with grace, intelligence and single-minded dedication to the goal of advancing the national interest. He epitomizes the strength that a warrior gains from the attacks by his opponents. The greater his achievements, the larger the threat he poses for those who want India and Indians to be backward and poor, and the more intense their vicious attacks on him.
May you live in interesting times, the Chinese curse says. We certainly are in for some very interesting times – but in our case, it will be a blessing. Narendrabhai’s achievements in Gujarat have awakened many Indians to the possibility of change and progress. They are saying, “If he can do that for Gujarat, it is time for him to work on a larger scale and do it for India.” The possibility of India being led by Shri Modi strikes fear in the hearts of India’s enemies. This is quite understandable because they cannot bear to see all their work undone. If India wins, they lose. The list of India’s enemies and Modi’s enemies is one and the same. I am sure that the war against Shri Narendra Modi will only intensify but that in the end, he will prevail because India prevails.