The chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, Modi is fawned over by business leaders for the way he has rooted out corruption and promoted economic and industrial growth. His fast-growing state has attracted investment from all over India as well as from American companies such as Ford and General Motors.
Yet he has been denied a visa to visit the United States over allegations that he failed to prevent Hindu mobs from massacring between 1,000 and 2,000 Muslims during riots in his state in 2002 or that he even actively encouraged the slaughter.
His prominence represents a yearning among certain sections of the middle classes for a strong, decisive leader, a desire to emulate China’s economic successes and impatience, too, with liberal ideas of human rights and social justice.
Ron Somers, the head of the U.S.-India Business Council, said Modi has “created a magnet for investment.” A Congressional Research Service report lauded Gujarat as “perhaps India’s best example of effective governance and impressive development.”
Gujarat has long been an entrepreneurial, business-friendly state, but Modi has helped unleash its potential since he took over in late 2001, with the state’s economy growing by more than 10 percent since then, compared with a national average of under eight.
“We make a very simple promise to all who wish to invest in Gujarat,” said Modi, a key figure in India’s main opposition party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in a rare interview last month. “We promise an atmosphere of clean, proactive and responsive government. We promise an environment that minimizes red tape-ism and encourages business.”
The BJP was largely pro-business and pro-America while ruling India as head of a coalition government from 1998 to 2004, but its strident assertion of what it sees as India’s essentially Hindu character alienates many people in this diverse nation of 1.2 billion people.
A man with few close friends, Modi sleeps just 31
2 hours a night, admits to being a “workaholic,” says he has no time to even read books these days and no pastimes at all apart from an early-morning spell of yoga.
He expects a similar dedication from his administration. Bureaucrats are kept on a tight leash and to tight deadlines. Even cabinet ministers clock in and out, and keep him informed if they leave their offices for meetings, a radically different way of working in India.