As the results of India’s last election emerged, I noticed a new enthusiasm all around. People starting from rickshaw pullers to industrialists, and from socialists to spiritualists, were expressing joy over the fact that India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), lead by Mr Narendra Modi, had practically wiped out the ruling UPA party from the political map of India. By the time the counting ended, BJP had registered a thumping victory, breaking all previous records and going beyond its Mission 272. They, along with their alliance, secured 336 out of total 543 seats in the parliament in an eye-opening display of popularity. The situation today is, the then ruling party, UPA, having won less than 10% of the total seats, is struggling to be recognized as an opposition party.
Being a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), I noticed that many ISKCON devotees around the world were also upbeat, seeing the rise of Mr Modi as the prime minister of India. Why? What is there in Mr Modi that gives hope to the devotees?
One striking difference I have noticed between Mr Modi and all other previous prime ministers is, his ability to boldly express his personal views, especially on his religious beliefs. This is a sensitive area where most, if not all, political leaders hesitate fearing loss of their so called secularist image. For example, Mr Modi performed a grand Ganga Puja immediately after he won the election. In the past he has supported worship and protection of cows in Gujarat, the only state in India, where cow killing is prohibited. Gujarat also has an official ban on drinking liquor.
Mr Modi is visibly proud of being a Bharatiya, an Indian, following Hindu culture. Critics may call it his strategy to appease the Hindus, but how many political leaders of today’s India, who also want to please the Hindus, have offered an eve-inspiring worship to Mother Ganga? How many have banned cow killing in the state they may have ruled? How many have been able to live a life of discipline that Mr Modi has lived? Not only that, he is able to convince others as to why one should be able to stand by their own views and religious conviction. This is not fanaticism nor does it amount to any hatred towards other religions.
All this requires personal integrity, and Mr Modi has shown that he has it. He may have his political agendas but I haven’t seen him sacrificing core ethics for votes. In Gujarat he proved his abilities, not only by development but also by winning the trust of the minorities, and I have reasons to believe that he will do the same on national level too, provided he is given time. One unique feature of his character is, he is able to distinctly define himself as a person and as the prime minister of the nation, and deliver accordingly.
According to Chanakya pandit, a highly renowned philosopher and royal adviser from India (370 BC – 283 BC), who authored the famous Artha shastra and Neeti shastra, the qualities of leadership (which attract followers) are: birth in a noble family, good fortune, intellect and prowess, association with elders, being righteous, truthful, resolute, enthusiastic and disciplined, not breaking his promises, showing gratitude [to those who help him], having lofty aims, not being dilatory, being stronger than neighbouring kings and having ministers of high quality. Although we cannot expect a political leader of today to be perfect possessing all these qualities, Mr Modi has, at least, talked about and exhibited a good number of them to a good degree.
I read the news that recently there has been an increasing demand from the US Congressmen that Mr Modi be requested to address a joint session of the US Congress when he visits Washington in September. Around three dozen Congressmen from both the Democratic and the Republican Party have signed a letter addressing the House of Representatives Speaker, John Boehner in this regard. President Barack Obama has sent a formal invitation to Mr Modi for a visit to the US. In New Delhi, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns told NDTV that Mr Modi is a very impressive man. (PM Modi A Very Impressive Man: Top US Official Burns Tells NDTV). This proves that Mr Modi is not just another prime minister of India.
Not that I am a fan of BJP or any other political party for that matter. In fact this is the first time in my 25+ years in ISKCON that I took some interest in politics. A change in Indian politics was a must, and Mr Modi appeared to be the only alternative. Now when he is India’s prime minister, I, like many other devotees from all over the world who I have spoken to and heard from, and millions of Indians around the world, believe that Mr Modi is blessed by the supreme Lord to do something remarkable in the world through India.
Ban on cow killing is one thing that so many devotees expect him to follow up on. His party’s clear majority in the parliament should make it easier, although they do need more seats in the upper house to pass such a resolution. The new budget has already imposed 72% tax on tobacco products in a bid to discourage people from consuming it.
A specialized university in Varanasi (Banaras) for studying ancient Indian scriptures and culture is proposed. A massive project for cleaning Ganga water is also on its way. These are undoubtedly positive steps towards a better India, and so a better world. We hope that what Srila Prabhupada wanted to achieve through India’s late prime minister Ms Indira Gandhi, will be achieved through Mr Narendra Modi. I wish him well.