I have always been intrigued by Narendra Modi. His tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat should be a case study in governing a state and must be taught in universities across the world. He had fascinated me because in him I saw a leader with a definite clarity in vision for his state and his people.
When Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India the first time. I had a lot of hope in him to bring about a paradigm shift in positioning India as a global nation. And he did not disappoint.
In his second term as Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has accelerated his vision and mission to strengthen India’s stand at the world’s stage of social, economic and political importance.
He is not perfect. I do not expect any leader to be perfect. But he does have an inspiring charisma that allows people to believe in his idea of a Better India and a Better World.
I was elated when two-years ago at the start of the New Year, I was followed on the social media platform Twitter by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I was told by someone close to him that he liked my writings and my analysis on socio-political issues in India. I was humbled. I hoped to interview him someday and I had appealed to him on social media on two occasions.
As destiny ordained, I had the good fortune to have a wonderful and intriguing conversation with him, when Amit Bagaria and I met with him, last year to present our book ‘Modi Stole My Mask’.
I always wanted to meet Narendra Modi face-to-face. I wanted to feel the aura that he carried, which is the force that took a young insignificant young lad from depths of have-nots to rise up to lead the largest democracy in the world and still remain grounded to simplicity.
Now I had the God-sent opportunity.
I still fondly remember his first statement to me when I entered his room with Amit. He shook hands with me, turned to his colleague and said, “I want to take a photograph with my friend from Goa”. He then looked at me and smilingly said, “Take off your mask. Anyway, you and Amit have told everyone through your book that I stole your masks.”
In those twenty-five minutes of conversation, I was not intimidated by one of the most powerful political leaders in the world. In fact, I felt that I was having a easy-going talk with my elder brother over some nice hot tea and biscuits.
I have met many political leaders in my journalistic career. Many a times, along with the politician, you will face two companions’ ego and arrogance. I found Modi to be down-to-earth and humble. There was no air of him being the Prime Minister of India, having a conversation with me and Amit, who were just two of the hundreds of people he meets in his daily life. Prime Minister Modi at that meeting was just Narendra Modi, a simple person.
The interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his office was a defining moment in my life. I was humbled by the care and respect he showered on Amit and me. He even advised me not to embark on one my crazy investigations out of India in enemy territory because it would not be safe for me.
I had decided then and there, that I will stand by him, no matter what, because he is genuine and has the interest of the people of India in his heart. I did not for a moment think that it would be a start to a relationship of a guide and friend, who is watching over me. And I am so blessed that I have the Prime Minister of India who calls me ‘His friend from Goa’.
So, when I was asked to contest the Goa Elections and I was told it was decision taking at the highest office of the country that I should foray into politics. I was humbled at the faith he had in me.
It was clear from the beginning that my foray into politics as part of the BJP in Goa, in one of the toughest seats was going to be next to impossible. However, I rationalized, that sometimes to make a difference, you need to fight the fight, even if you lose a round or two. And I knew, I had Narendra Modi and the senior leaders of the BJP like BL Santosh, CT Ravi, Devendra Fadnavis and my party colleagues in the state to hold my hands and teach me the ropes.
Many in the political circles in Goa, thought that the loss of an election for a career-oriented individual like me, would demoralize me and I would throw in the towel. Little did they know that the two biggest inspirations in my life were fighters against all odds – one was my mentor the Late Manohar Parrikar and the other Prime Minister Narendra Modi – I am a long-distance runner with immense patience, tenacity and drive to do something for my constituency, my state, my country and my world.
A former diplomat close to Narendra Modi in an interaction post the election told me, “You know why he likes you. Because you have this raw innocent commitment to your plans for Velim, Goa and India. You are like a child who will fight to get what he wants with an intriguing stubbornness. Also, because you are a good person, who always speaks his heart and mind without fear. Sometimes impulsive.”
I do not pay attention to people who speak ill about Narendra Modi. I know some of his decisions have even baffled me and left me analysing the reasons for such decisions or lack of decisions.
I do not think every step of Prime Minister Modi is a masterstroke. More importantly, I do not follow him blindly. But I do trust him to do the right thing in the interest of India.
I will call out his mistakes. I will argue with him on issues. And I will tell him, he is failing; like I did when I met him, last year, when we did not see eye-to-eye on a pertinent issue and he in his humility, agreed with me.
But in all this Narendra Modi to me is not just the Prime Minister of India, that’s a political position; to me Narendra Modi is family. He is like an elder-brother and it my duty as a citizen of India and a younger brother to strengthen his hands and work towards his vision for India.
In my personal opinion, Narendra Modi is not pretentious in his love for India and our people. He loves India and wants good for our people.
On his birthday, my earnest prayer to the almighty is that Narendra Modi continues to inspire common people like me to be Sevaks of a new – progressive and prosperous India.