Narendra Modi: The best CEO in India

Last Updated: Wed, Apr 16, 2014 10:24 hrs

Let's take a peek at Narendra Modi, the man most opinion polls now say will lead India in 2014.

Others too could make it but it would take some doing.

Narendra Modi, born 1950

Gujarat chief minister

Most likely to: Make the BJP more efficient.

Least likely to: Retire in Gujarat.

Not many think of Narendra Modi as someone they can sup with. They see him as a man of robotic competence – great with onus, poor with small talk.

This may be true. Tasks don’t seem to frighten Modi. The tougher the job, the easier he does it.

He may be the only rightwing politician to have razed illegal temples, scores of them. All other seniors, put together, haven’t touched any.

He is the only one in BJP memory to best the RSS and the VHP in a turf fight. Atal Behari Vajpayee chose disdain as his weapon. He could. He had the charisma.

Modi has to battle it out. He did. After 10 years, the RSS and the VHP matter as much as the Congress in Gujarat.

It would seem that Modi knows no fear. This enables him to take risks. It’s just that he doesn’t see it as risk.

Therefore, the response to the Godhra killings. Murder triggered more murder. Mayhem produced more mayhem. In the end, it evened out for Modi.

Some things are never forgotten. But memory loses bite. It lingers but can do little. Modi took the chance. No one else might have.

This ability to manage makes Modi the best CEO in India. He has helmed. He has delivered. He and his party have profited.

A leader, however, is altogether different. It takes compassion to be one. To govern men, one must know how to forgive. Modi apparently doesn’t.

His vengeance made Sanjay Joshi [an RSS activist who was once Modi’s working partner] a martyr.

Joshi wasn’t big fish then. He isn’t now. It’s just that the wrath of Modi gave Joshi a public profile.

Modi’s anger made Nitin Gadkari [former BJP president] seem like a martyr, although briefly.

Gadkari was small fry then. He is even smaller now. But the fury of Modi generated goodwill for Gadkari, although only a wee bit.

Here’s the thing. Joshi and Gadkari don’t really matter. Modi thought they might.

This suggests that Modi may have control issues, which may be driving him to micromanage.

Visitors who have met him more than once say Modi has a need to know all details of where a person comes from. It makes him uncomfortable when he can’t place the caste, religion and geography of a person.

This strong streak of control places Modi different from Rahul Gandhi and Nitish Kumar who offer more space to colleagues and guests.

Control is often in the company of perfectionism and approval-seeking. As it is with Modi.

He strives for flawlessness and sets high performance standards. This drives him into excessive self-analysis. It also makes him worry about how others see him.

Because he sets high standards, Modi expects others to approve. Inability, or unwillingness, to do so irritates him. He then rejects those who do not cheer him.

This happened with Sushma Swaraj [leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha]. Swaraj positioned herself for a while as possible leader of the BJP but she changed her mind after Modi’s displeasure.

Soon, Swaraj began to hail Modi. Such behaviour soothes a control freak and an approval-seeker. It calmed Modi too.

Modi appears to have trouble with figures of authority, although we don’t entirely know why. He had to toil his way up and there may have been a few unpleasant experiences in this journey.

In his pre-teens, he sold tea with his brother but we don’t know how this made him distrust seniors.

He works best when he has no one to report to. His ability to think things through makes him reject seniors who seem weak by comparison.

This makes him a loner. Since he is so good, his seniors let him be. This is a role-reversal of sorts and with every success Modi takes on the role of the senior although he isn’t.

RSS chiefs don't matter to him although he will be formal and decent with them. VHP chiefs matter even less and he won’t be formal or nice with them.

Those who have trouble with figures of authority know peace only when they are in charge. This seems to make Modi think of the prime minister's position as appropriate for him.

We don't know if Modi would be willing to head the BJP when not in power. He hasn’t shown interest when he doesn’t have the last word.

This reluctance to get his feet dirty when there's no tangible gain makes him different from Rahul Gandhi who has spent years making sense of his party.

His treatment of women in family is of interest. He respects his mother and spends time with her every day, if in town. He doesn't visit his wife who lives separately.

He speaks of his mother on occasion with reverence. He makes no reference to his wife.

It would seem, therefore, that Modi has trouble with interdependence. He prefers to be independent, which means above the crowd.

He has no use for money. He seems to get along almost without any. He may be incorruptible.

He seems to have no use for sex. He seems to be comfortable celibate.

He has a sense of individual health. He works to be fit and does yoga at will. This sense of discipline enables him to look good and retain visual appeal.

He has a high sense of destiny. He seems to think he is remarkable and must be acknowledged as such.

This enables him to stay patient and let things come his way. This is what happened when the British government sent its representative to see him in Gujarat after years of denying him a visa.

He seems to think that any kind of political loss is a sign of weakness. He has not lost an election yet and this may be robbing him of perspective.

This marks him differently from Rahul Gandhi who has made peace with electoral loss.

Modi is adaptable. He is comfortable with social media and uses it to his advantage. He knows the value of online presence and uses it to reach Indians outside India.

He has a fully functional personal website, which places him apart from Rahul Gandhi and Nitish Kumar who don’t have personal websites yet.

He loves the attention of the wealthy and the powerful. He is always comfortable in the company of corporate bosses, for instance.

He is not seen much with the poor. This suggests that he may see poverty as an individual weakness.

He understands the benefits of marketing. He has worked to make himself a brand. He is now identified with Gujarat.

The challenge for Modi is to understand India. He has a deep sense of Gujarat partly because he worked in Gujarat for years. He hasn’t slaved in the rest of the country.

This is a weakness. It places him differently from Rahul Gandhi who has travelled across India to educate himself.

We will know soon, how Modi works this out.

More from the author

The other side of Mamata Banerjee

The women in Narendra Modi’s life

What the world may expect of Narendra Modi

What I learned from covering 12 elections

Aam Aadmi Party is like the Tehelka of politics

Rahul Gandhi may be the last of the Nehru-Gandhis

Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at

More from Sify: