It is towards the end of 2008, and, aviation entrepreneur G.R. Gopinath gets a call from Gandhinagar, Gujarat's capital. D.K. Rao, the state's Principal Secretary handling infrastructure, wants to meet the man who introduced Indians to low-cost air travel to discuss a business idea.
Soon, they meet twice in Mumbai. Rao is under direct instructions from Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is upset that there are no flights between Gujarat's cities and towns. Gopinath flies to Ahmedabad to meet the man who is as famed for running a tight ship by way of administration as he is vilified for polarising the majority Hindus and minority Muslims and Christians like never before under his rule.
Gopinath explains that he has hardly any role in Kingfisher Airlines, which he has merged his airline Air Deccan with. The ex-army pilot offers to operate cargo flights of his new venture, Deccan 360. Modi agrees but does not give up his agenda. He asks Gopinath to get going on both projects and before parting, jocularly warns: "Be quick on your project. We are faster than you."
Come summer, if all goes according to plan, Deccan Aviation, a Gopinath venture, will begin operating air taxis in the state. Details are under wraps, but in a first-of-its-kind in India, the government will meet any shortfall in ticket revenues. The state has also offered to let Deccan 360 use a new airport outside Ahmedabad as a cargo hub.
In other states, says Gopinath, it is difficult to meet a chief minister as he is surrounded by hundreds of people, most of them seeking redressal of personal grievances. Modi, Gopinath says, avoids such meetings. "That is because, he thinks the system should take care of them," says the Bangalore businessman. "On the other hand, he proactively approaches or readily meets people bringing proposals that can create jobs."
This single-minded pursuit of business without any middlemen makes Modi's A team arguably the most-loved among all states by Indian - and, increasingly, foreign - businessmen.
The political class and bureaucracy speak the same language, so there is no confusion. Contrast that with the government in Karnataka, which is bumbling from one crisis to another besides battling charges of corruption. Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa "is not able to deliver because his MLAs are torn apart in several camps and the CM finds his hands tied," says Gopinath.
Modi, a fit 60-year-old, is obsessive about his daily routine, say those around him. He wakes up early - typically between 4 and 5 a.m. - and practises yoga. He then logs on to the Internet to check on the news.