FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
There was little debate amongst India Today editors on who would be Newsmaker of 2016. Even before the fateful day of November 8, he was in the lead, but his D-bomb sealed it. In 2016, no one dominated the country’s discourse and influenced the lives of its people more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He kept the media busy by ordering a surgical strike on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as a reprisal for terror attacks, he did not extend the term of poster boy RBI governor Raghuram Rajan in spite of a chorus of support, he did not succumb to the rage of veterans on the implementation of One Rank One Pension, and he scored an unprecedented win for the BJP in Assam. As India’s First Diplomat, he travelled to 18 countries, including five in East and Southeast Asia, altering the focus of our Pakistan-centric international relations and hard-selling India’s image from red tape to red carpet. He lobbied for India’s entry into the NSG even though he was stymied in his efforts by China.
In 2016, he was on the India Today cover five times. In all, India Today has had him on the cover 36 times (one more than Indira Gandhi and five less than Sonia Gandhi). He has been newsmaker of the year twice before, once in 2002 and a second time in 2014. In the time we have been chronicling his journey, it is gratifying to see certain campaign promises come through, whether it is in the large-scale implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana or the weeding out of corruption from the Centre. Some other big-ticket ideas have been highly publicised, such as Make in India and minimum governance, but not adequately executed.
But the prime minister’s vision has been clear from the beginning. At his first Independence Day speech in 2014, Prime Minister Modi had described himself as the nation’s Pradhan Sevak, and declared that he wanted to put an end to the culture of ‘mera kya, mujhe kya’. It was not a slogan, as many imagined, but a promise. Participative government has become the cornerstone of his administration, evident in policies such as Swachh Bharat, schemes such as Give It Up by the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, and in great disruptions like demonetisation. It is a long-term cultural remaking project. And it pivots on the prime minister’s individual popularity. When he says he is a fakir who will pack his bags and move on if and when the time comes, much of India believes him.
That is both Prime Minister Modi’s strength and weakness. His high personal popularity has given him the courage to take a decision without any apparent short-term payoff. It may also have blinded him to the potential pitfalls arising out of poor implementation. In his urge to transform India, he overestimated the state’s capacity to deliver an essential service like banking. But as the prime minister says in a candid interaction, preceded by an extensive e-mail interview, to Group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa, “one must distinguish between niti (policy) and ran-niti (execution strategy or tactical manoeuvres). Demonetisation, which reflects our niti, is unequivocally clear, unwavering and categorical. Our ran-niti, however, was ‘Tu daal-daal, main paat-paat’. We must stay two steps ahead of the enemy’’. Altruism is not the sole driver of the prime minister’s relentless search for innovative decisions. After the horror of the 2002 riots, he spent the next 12 years of his tenure as Gujarat chief minister transforming the state into a model of development and himself into an icon of progress. Modi has always been conscious about his place in history, more so since he became prime minister.
No wonder he’s launched one ground-breaking scheme after another. At last count, he had announced 27 new schemes, from the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana in March to the Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana in November; given over 200 speeches and acquired over 25 million Twitter followers. Many may disagree with his style of functioning and execution of his various schemes, but few can dispute the goals and directions of his efforts. They are aimed at modernising India every which way. Frankly, I would rather have a prime minister propagate development and rail against corruption than have the nation fighting over a mandir or the sanctity of the cow.
A rebel without a pause, he is a man bursting with ideas to upset the established order. All this has ensured he remains leagues ahead of an erratic Opposition and the undisputed newsmaker of 2016. On that decisive note, Happy New Year!
GROUP EDITORIAL DIRECTOR RAJ CHENGAPPA IN CONVERSATION WITH PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI AT HIS OFFICE
OUR NEWSMAKER 2014 COVER