Narendra Modi is not a tall man, but he exudes self assurance and authority. There is something of the High Priest of Mohenjo-Daro about him, presiding at the altar of Capitalist Gujarat under the gaze of an adoring laity. Modi has been chief minister of Gujarat for just over nine years, in itself an enviable stretch. The billboards in Ahmedabad trumpet the January 12-13 Vibrant Gujarat Summit .
There is more of Modi the man in view than of his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party. "This government is absolutely apolitical," says Modi. "When I make a decision there is no political consideration."
Indeed, Modi runs Gujarat like a benignly tyrannical CEO. "My government is P2G2," he says. "Propeople, proactive good governance." The firm's top and bottom lines are satisfyingly in the black.
This month's investment jamboree, organised every two years, is the fifth since 2003, and it promises to bring in a fresh torrent of industries and jobs. The last one in 2009 swept aside meltdown gloom with $240 billion in commitments. "After four successful Summits the investments are in autopilot mode," Modi says.
"You can't operate outside the rules," Modi says, "but neither do you need a huge, extraordinary talent to run the government"
These money-fests exemplify Modi's single-minded focus on policy and implementation. "I spent a month or a month-and-a-half supervising micro-details for the first two Summits," he says. "This one is a couple of weeks away and I don't even know who is attending." That is a bit disingenuous, though. Modi has personally led a series of roadshows heralding this Summit, complete with panels of business leaders, video presentations, and slick promotional bumf.
The interview takes place in the chief minister's enclave in Gandhinagar, guarded by gimlet-eyed security. The surroundings are quiet and sylvan. There are no crowds of hangers-on, no fawning supplicants. There are large paper roses in the ante-room, but the air is redolent with the smell of rosewater. To critics who say he runs Gujarat like a one-man show, Modi is quick to emphasise 'Team Gujarat'. "In a democratic system a leader's biggest contribution should be to institutionalise every idea," he says.
"Gujarat's success is because we have institutionalised everything." After we have done talking, Modi, ever the media-savvy politician, spends close to half an hour posing obligingly for the photographer. It is a Thursday afternoon, but affairs of state seem to wait beyond the walls of the sunlit compound.