My Encounters with Shri Narendra Modi
I share here three encounters (rather opportunities for interaction and observation) with Shri Narendra Modiji. The first one was when I was invited to speak on Human Resources Management in Government at Vadodara almost a decade ago in one of the Chintan Shibirs. I gave a talk. What started as a 90 minute session went on for two full hours. He was the only one among all his Ministers and Bureaucrats to sit through all two hours and patiently take notes. At the end of it during the tea break, he said "Raoji aap ko time bahut kam mila" - indicating that he was willing to take more. This was followed by some of his IAS officers making attempts to start 360 Degree Feedback in their departments.
The second encounter was more as an observer, a few years later, when I was invited for a function of Pundit Deenadayal Petroleum University. I was among the audience. There were many dignitaries on the Dias including Mukesh Ambani, Governor, and other Ministers. The program began with a prayer dance. While the prayer dance was going on, one of the dancing girl’s pallu caught fire from the oil lamps (diyyas or lights) put up there. The moment he noticed the fire while all others were watching from a distance he instinctively rushed (ran) from the Dias down to the girl to put off the fire. None of the others had such a great presence of mind. Status barriers etc. did not matter to him.
The third encounter a few years ago and a few months before he was elected as CM for the third time. An Industrialist friend of mine took me to him to suggest a 360 Degree feedback. This Industrialist friend was apparently very close to him in his child hood schools days. He said that Modiji is a great person with high potential. He will become PM one day. We should do a 360 Degree feedback and help him at this stage itself to recognise his blind spots. Your methodology seems to be a good methodology to do that. So let us talk to him. Both of us along with one of his CEOs went to meet Shri Modiji. We made a presentation to him at his home in Gandhinagar. He gave us almost over three hours. The way he was dressed reminded me of the day I met N T Rama Rao garu when he invited me to start a Institute of Professional Education in AP. Dressed informally he had arrangements for a ppt presentation at his home. He listened attentively to all we said about Leadership; competency building and how 360 helps in the same. At the end of it he said’ Raoji, I am very happy and open to this 360 degree Feedback. However let me tell you that as soon as I took over as CM, your IIMA Director Dr Dholakia and Indira Parikh have organised a feedback session with my ministers and civil servants. I was asked not to be present so that they could discuss freely and frankly. In the afternoon they asked me to come and listen to their feedback. I was expecting to hear from them something I could improve. To my surprise none of them had anything negative to say. They told me the obvious things and full of praise. So I am not how much people can be really frank. I speak from my heart and many times soon after I speak I get a sense that I should not have been that outspoken. But the damage is done by the time I get this insight, and the press has already picked up. However I am open to such feedback. I can write to Advaniji and others requesting them to give their feedback. Please go ahead.”
We did not do it as the state elections were due in a few months after that and we were afraid that this will go to media and they will see this as an election stunt etc. We dropped the idea.
In all these encounters I experienced Shri Modiji as a very genuine learner, patient listener and respectful of academics and receptive to useful ideas. He is instinctively a caring person as illustrated by the incident where he rushed to the rescue of the girl, from fire on the stage.
I am happy that such a person is going to lead the country. I can also see that in Gujarat many of his initiatives have not fully taken off with speed. A CM or a PM can only do certain things what is perhaps needed is that everyone in the implementation machinery needs to work with devotion. His victory speech at Vadodara is an excellent speech. He said that development should become a revolution and it should occupy the minds of every one. Like in the days of freedom struggle every one worked for India’s freedom, everyone should feel that they are working for development.
My colleagues like Pradip Khandwalla and Bakul Dholakia had many more interactions with him and were lucky to have shared their thoughts. He listens to academics and thinkers and values their views.
I think if he fails it is the failure of all of us and failure of India. I hope we can all work for real change. No one person can do it all alone and this person is providing the leadership needed.