Harshavardhan Neotia is the Chairman of the Ambuja Neotia Group, a conglomerate headquartered in Kolkata. He is one of the co-owners of Atletico de Kolkata, an Indian Super League football team. Mr. Neotia lives in Kolkata.
‘Take risks in your life. If you win, you can lead; if you lose, you can guide,’ said Swami Vivekananda.
Our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modiji, has often lived by this guiding spirit and that is what makes him so unique. Indeed, on his 70th birthday, it is a privilege to congratulate him and pen a few words to express my deep regard for his astute sagacity and courage. Modiji has always created a storm in the media, emblazoning headlines in India and abroad. I therefore thought it prudent to pen some personal experiences to illustrate my interactions with him as a tribute on this special occasion.
Since the mid-1980s, our family used to run a cement plant in Gujarat. In the course of their visits, my father and uncle had met Narendra Modiji around the late 1990s, well before he became the Chief Minister. I too had the privilege of meeting him around this time when he visited Kolkata and being struck by his sharp mind and upright demeanour. Later, during his tenure as Chief Minister and then, when I had the privilege of meeting him as an office bearer of FICCI, Modiji left on me the same indelible impression. This was reiterated when I, as a member of a few business delegations overseas on the side-lines of the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s visits, had a chance to glimpse some distinct traits in the man that stood tall.
Applauded by the media for his self-discipline and rigorous routine, I too have witnessed his ability to chair serious meetings within hours after landing from international flights that have lasted almost 15 hours. As a frequent traveller, I am well aware of the toll jetlag and time differences can take on a passenger. But such long hauls, most surprisingly, seem to have affected him little and it was remarkable to see Modiji, fresh and thoroughly attentive, despite the most punishing schedules. I have to admit that this was a hard act to follow by somebody half his age!
Modiji’s patience as a listener is extraordinary – attentive to every word spoken, without interrupting the speaker. And, afterwards, his insightful queries and interjections clearly indicated that he was fully focused. His public persona is, to say the least, formidable. He comes across as a no-nonsense, serious thinker who seldom succumbs to outright laughter in the midst of crowds. Yet, during smaller interactions, I have observed his very subtle but brilliant humour. Resorting to an interesting play of words, with a straight face, and with just that wee bit of a twinkle in his eyes, he says things most impassively that cannot but help bring a smile to your face.
Despite divergent opinions about the Prime Minister’s vision of positioning India on the path to development anticipated by him, rarely have we seen any political leader in the recent past so meticulously implement most of the poll promises. This would include the extremely laudable initiatives of Swachh Bharat, technological connectivity, the introduction of the Jan Dhan Mobile and the Aadhaar trinity, the various plans for farmers and the homeless, and other equally important schemes like Ujjala and Udan. Without a doubt, all these have led to an increased formalization of the Indian economy, adding transparency and accountability to the stratagems. Regardless of hiccups during the process of implementation, I have no measure of doubt that they will augur well towards transforming our country into a modern and progressive nation in the near future.
The government’s cracking down on corruption and cronyism and virtually reading out the riot act to all loan defaulters has completely transformed the mind-set of entrepreneurs, harnessing their reckless tendencies towards misappropriation. These measures have meant recognizing large NPAs on the balance sheets of banks that has led to a temporary slowdown in economic growth. But this mess had to be cleaned as the problem had continued to fester for long. Thankfully, the ulcer has been identified and once it is out of the system, I am certain that the economy will be able to realize its potential to the fullest, led by the vision, determination and tremendous courage of Narendra Modiji.
The Prime Minister’s compelling cultural identification with the deep-rooted traditions of India has found a strong resonance with his followers. Often, in his speeches, his references to some event, occasion or an anecdote, immediately makes a popular connect with the masses. It is not simply the brilliance of his oratory power but also his humble upbringing. His early childhood and subsequent years of his youth spent as an aspiring seeker gave him a first-hand experience of the real India. And this, in turn, hand in hand with his acute skills of observation and oration, led to creating the phenomenon that is Narendra Modi.
Happy birthday Sir! As a popular song from our Hindi film says, ‘Aap jiyo hazaaron saal; saal ke din hon pachaas hazaar…’