NEW YORK CITY, NY. — Every nation needs a strong leader. A leader that the people can look up to and have comfort in; a charismatic leader who symbolizes their sovereignty. For many years, India was devoid of such a leader, but it all changed when Narendra Modi took office as Prime Minister on May 26, 2014.
Since his accession to power, Modi has completely transformed how India is perceived by the outside world. His global outreach has eclipsed his predecessors and has given India an ambassador that is symbolic of its rising place in the world.
Shraddha Shah, a 23-year-old Mumbai resident studying abroad, has a positive image of Modi. “Whether it was the electric speech at Madison Square or Yoga in Shanghai - Modi has painted a better picture of India,” Shah told Global Young Voices. “As an Indian witnessing his presence around the world, I feel prouder to be associated with my country than ever before.”
Shah’s views reflect that of most of the Indian citizens. In a poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal India on the eve of Modi’s first year anniversary, 63.1 percent of the votes rated his reign as a “respectable start” and 21.1 percent “a roaring success.”
Modi has reached out to many Indian communities outside of the country, reminding them that they’re all part of a bigger India. His vibe electrified NRI (non-resident Indian) audiences all over the world. One of his many accomplishments is the easing of paperwork for Indians who live abroad and intended to return home.
At home, Modi has made an effort to look out for the poor. His administration has opened tens of thousands of bank accounts and created pensions and insurance programs. Modi’s use of social media has been lauded by many, for being a modern way to connect with the country’s youth. He is active on Facebook (with 28 million followers to date), Twitter(13 million), and even the Chinese microblogging site Weibo.
Kushal Todi, 22, a local restaurateur and student in Mumbai, has great reverence for Modi’s online presence. “Never before has any Indian politician connected with the youth of the country in the way Modi has,” he said. “He creates dialogue and uses social media as a tool to get feedback from his nation.”
Nationally, Modi’s recent “Make In India” initiative is the first of its kind, aiming to facilitate investment and foster innovation in the South Asian country. Internationally, his global outlook has paved the way for more foreign investment in the railway and defense sectors. A big landmark was deregulating fuel prices and private competition in coal mining.
Modi’s adoption of modern tech and expansion of e-infrastructure in the government have made a substantial difference in the war against corruption. His campaigns at home have been hugely successful, notably the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” or the “Clean India movement”. As part of this campaign, Modi humbly took to the streets to sweep, asking people to help him clean up their country. The campaign garnered a lot of support from regular citizens as well as celebrities. It inspired successful figures like former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, business magnate Anil Ambani and film actor and producer Salman Khan to do the same.
Although many muslims were skeptical about his rise after the Gujarat riots in 2002, Modi made an effort to win them over - reminding them that he is responsible for every single Indian, irrespective of their religion.
It’s been just over a year since Modi took over, but Indians at home and abroad have never been as hopeful about their future as now. Only time will tell if Modi can keep his lofty promises like a “Clean India by 2019” and “A Home for every Indian family by 2022,” but his energy and momentum have given his people profound hope. All eyes will be on him as he captains India into what seems like a new page in its politics and global standing.
cartoon credit: Paresh Nath/Cagle Cartoons, 2014