Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi Facts

Information and analysis about Narendra Modi, India's prime minister since 2014, and the network of Hindu nationalist organisations around him.

What is Modi's leadership style?

Narendra Modi's critics and supporters generally agree that his leadership style is authoritarian, and he concentrates power in his own hands. Evidence which emerged in the snoopgate scandal and fake encounter cases, and the recent sidelining of BJP leaders such as L. K. Advani, Jaswant Singh and Sushma Swaraj, confirms Modi's tendency to maintain tight control. Activity on social media and sentiments such as "we need a bit of authoritarianism in this country" reported by one journalist indicate that Modi's style of governance is, in fact, an important factor in Modi's appeal.

After interviewing Modi in the early 1990s, sociologist Ashis Nandy wrote: "[Modi] met virtually all the criteria that psychiatrists, psycho-analysts and psychologists had set up after years of empirical work on the authoritarian personality. He had the same mix of puritanical rigidity, narrowing of emotional life, massive use of the ego defence of projection, denial and fear of his own passions combined with fantasies of violence." In documents leaked by Wikileaks the former US Ambassador wrote: "In public appearances, Modi can be charming and likeable. By all accounts, however, he is an insular, distrustful person who rules with a small group of advisors... He reigns more by fear and intimidation than by inclusiveness and consensus, and is rude, condescending and often derogatory to even high level party officials. He hoards power and often leaves his ministers in the cold when making decisions that affect their portfolios."

Gujarati journalist Aakar Patel has interviewed Modi on various occasions. He notes that Modi is "firm and disciplined" and is a "brilliant public speaker, charismatic, very hardworking, uninterested in most things outside politics and government". At the same time, he is "highly insecure and only works with those who accept his absolute supremacy". Moreover "he has contempt for the legislature in Gujarat" and "doesn't understand the democratic idea of minority rights or of legitimacy". "He sees himself - and the middle class sees him - in messianic terms." In Patel's view, if he becomes PM, Modi is likely to surround himself with "his chamchas and yes-men". Patel also argues that Modi has pursued a consistent strategy of revenge against his opponents, including police officers and social activists.

The themes of arrogance and insecurity reappear in Modi's own words. While campaigning in Varanasi in April 2014, he said that he was "chosen by God" to do difficult work. In an interview with Urdu weekly Nai Duniya in 2012, he refers to himself in the third person: "I am a challenge for myself, because the benchmarks I have created are so high. If Modi works 16 hours, people will ask why he doesn’t work 18 hours. People expect a lot from Narendra Modi. I am required to break my own records". In the same interview he sees himself as a victim: "The media has taken upon itself the responsibility of spreading lies against me." Famously, Modi claimed that his accomplishments in Gujarat required a "56-inch chest". Meanwhile, speaking of the victims of the 2002 violence in Gujarat: "even if a puppy comes under the wheel of your car, it is painful".

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last updated: Oct. 2019