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Modi’s CV is full of crisis management experience, but war on Covid may be his toughest job

From Kutch earthquake to Gujarat riots, Modi is no stranger to crisis management. But Coronavirus pandemic is going to test his leadership skills like no other.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeals on coronavirus have been greatly respected. His call for offering community thanks to all those on the front line of war against Covid-19 was a resounding success. But, he certainly did not expect that people would come on to the streets dot at 5pm and convert his simple thanksgiving appeal into a highly avoidable and hazardous victory procession.

Little wonder that the ace crisis manager had to go into a huddle with his advisors and come out with another appeal. This time, a stern one that declared a 21-day national lockdown.

Leadership is truly tested in times of crisis, and for Modi, the coronavirus outbreak has created yet another challenge. But the Prime Minister has, time and again, proven his crisis management skills, turning an adverse situation to his favour. The emerging situation is no different and Modi should keep wearing his ‘crisis manager hat’ for a longer duration.

One of the important rules in crisis management is to realise the errors of commission and omission in the initial decisions and take immediate corrective steps.

In a situation where it was clearly established globally that the coronavirus infection spreads through human-to-human contact, it would have been advisable to have gone into a lockdown mode much earlier. But it is also true that world over, governments took time to realise the enormity of the syndrome due to delayed relay of information about the gravity of the viral attack and its deadly consequences.


Also read: Railways ready with plan to convert coaches into isolation wards, ICUs for Covid-19 patients


Modi’s past experiences

All the previous Indian prime ministers have faced major crisis situations during their tenure. The 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars; the challenges to political seat and the declaration of Emergency; the pawning of country’s gold; the 1992 Ayodhya incident; the hijacking of Indian Airlines plane; the Kargil conflict; the Indo-US nuclear deal, the list is endless. It would make an interesting read as to know how every occupant of the most coveted seat of power in the country handled their respective crisis and the price they paid.

Prime Minister Modi is no greenhorn when it comes to handling crisis situations. His years of grassroots work in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have probably honed his skills of being forewarned about the impending extent of the crisis and take quick steps to mitigate it.

From being a participant in the 1974 Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat to playing an active role in the anti-Emergency outfit Lok Sangarsha Samiti in 1975, Modi’s exposure to political crises had an early beginning.

The Morbi flood caused by the Machhu Dam disaster in 1979 that killed nearly 10,000 people was probably one of the first calamities that brought “RSS Pracharak Modi” face-to-face with a gigantic crisis.

Modi cut his teeth in handling political crisis during the exodus of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators in Gujarat, caused by a major rift in the otherwise disciplined party. His direct participation in electoral politics as a member of the party, ascendency to power and subsequent events not only continued to test his nerve but also established him as a successful administrator.

The 1998 cyclone that hit the port town of Kandla, the crippling drought in almost half of the districts in Gujarat in 2000, the flash floods in the capital city of Ahmadabad in 2000 were some of the tragedies that brought Modi closer to being the ‘crisis manager’ of the party and the state, no matter who the chief minister was.

The devastating earthquake on 26 January 2001 that reduced many towns like Bhuj, Bhachau, Anjar in Kutch district of Gujarat posed one of the worst challenges for then chief minister.

More than 20,000 people were killed and about two lakh injured. About half-a-million structures were turned into dust. The economy was devastated and so was the morale of the people. It was Modi who was the moving spirit behind the relief operations, enlisting the support of religious bodies and social organisations, and appealing to the rich Gujarati business community abroad to come out and help.

His expertise in managing crisis and rebuilding the economy catapulted him to the high seat of power in the state. The infamous 2002 Gujarat riots brought out yet another facet of the ‘crisis manager’ who had to manage the economy and social equilibrium amid many odds.


Also read: At G20 video summit, India calls for new take on globalisation in post-coronavirus world


What lies ahead?

The menace of coronavirus is essentially a man-made disaster whose origin has more or less been determined. The jury is still out deciding whether it should be classified as an experiment gone wrong, a calamity waiting to happen due to unhealthy eating habits or just the beginning of a major biological warfare.

Whatever it may turn out to be, but the challenge it poses is gigantic in proportion, compared to the devastation brought about by the two World Wars or the nuclear destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the dreaded plague and terrifying tsunami. Most of these man-made and natural calamities were to a very large extent localised and the damage was confined to a fairly limited geography, but that is not the case with coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has left its footprints all over the world, affecting the rich and the renowned and the poor and the obscure, from the Prince of Wales to the pauper on the streets. The mightiest of the economies to the least developed ones, every country is going to face an unprecedented recession perhaps never experienced before.

The total lockdown is no doubt the only immediately available, best and ideal solution to the coronavirus pandemic. But no one is immune to the stress and anxiety that the aftermath of the lockdown would inundate us with, the society as a whole and the economy in particular.

Prime Minister Modi’s present cabinet colleagues are good to carry out their assigned duties, but the country needs far more superior expertise to deal with this extraordinary crisis. As a senior journalist put it, ‘we are certainly in good hands’ no doubt, but Modi should constitute a larger team to formulate and implement short-term and long-term plan of action to tide over this unprecedented crisis.

The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. We need a Winston Churchill as he was to the UK in WWII.
    This is WAR an~ internal emergency. This is the truth. It is WWIII.
    SCM is critical. In Calcutta, neighborhoods are yet provided vegetables by cart vendors . They walk from Sh Calcutta to Sealdah rly stn market ~mandi at 2 AM each day~ reach by 7 AM. Return with vegetables in their large bags, get their local carts and reach our neighborhood in Lake Gardens by 1o am sort of. The suburban police have large vans to give them a lift to the Mandi but where is the coordination……how long can they sustain…
    This country has been in ATROPHY as our Elite have looted us and not built the public Health Systems, infrastructure, matured R&D and Start ups etc. etc that we needed with Time. This is FACT not FICTION. Many of us shall die, or relatives, friends will. This is FACT not FICTION either. Only the politicians, gentry will survive is grossly UNFAIR!
    Modi has had it in him to lead in 2o14 d 2o19. But this Corona is a game changer not just for him but many others. If this is War, Modi should seek active assistance~advice~guide~mentoring from Gen Rawat and the 3 other Chiefs whose men are trained to deliver in disaster mgmt scenes. Modi is not. But he is our leader. And his leadership must be relevant. We have studied management and leadership and seen these in play He should not have only the Defense Minister confabulate with Gen Rawat, but both must be called by him with 3 other Service Chiefs to plan 5 days in advance. DAILY.
    Modi is the HEAD.
    All his actions so far have indicated he is 3 days behind schedule. Guess he is learning but Nation cannot see him keeping on learning….Lives are at stake and so is our beautiful Democracy. And each democratic situation demands relevant leadership. Yes or No!
    Community Transmission is imminent. Its numbers are haunting. Its devastation, shd it catch these large metro slums e.g., will be pathetic. I also am an admirer of Modi. But trust he realizes he brings positive vibrations only. A disciple of Swami Vivekananda cannot let the nation down. And the Swami was a disciplinarian, who thought, planned, coordinated, strategized and delivered like a General. Otherwise Chicago Speech, Nivedita, Belur Math etc. and his books much like War projects, would never have happened.
    So rethink Mr. Modi because in 21st Century only such leaders survive who learn, unlearn ad relearn FAST. And Chaiwallas learn faster….because they know what suffering is…..and try to prevent it en mass.
    Regards and Joyfulness

  2. The problem is that his cabinet with the exception of a couple of ministers and CDS are useless. Look at the tweets of some of his senior ministers and not to mention his health minister. Harsh Vardhans twitter feed is a joy- start with early Feb to early March and see. Glad to see he is being sidelined as PMO takes direct control of the crisis. Make no mistake, if it hits India just on the level of New York (even in one city in India) it will be catastrophic. India is not alone, many advanced countries failed to prepare and lockdown alone will not solve but I have the feeling that lockdown will go on for a few more weeks and that is all what we will have as mass testing means more hospitalisations, more ventillators etc which we do not have. So extened lockdown maybe our only solution.. Stay safe

  3. Mr. Modi wants to be a super person hungry of power and to be in all social media thus proving his importance. He brings in such immediate law and order to show the world that he is very positive and the only politician who have the guds. Everyone have the guds but they dont like people suffering. Modi never worry of the poor and deprived people.

  4. This article is what we call cowdung mixed in cows urine that the bakths will drink. But modi is the worst person for even tea making let alone pm

  5. I was wondering how “Print” praising Mr.Modi.. is it new world or something. 😂😂.. Surely its a pain in ass to many readers of “Print” and many of them hard to digest it. But what else can they do..even their headquarters cheif and even Pappu also praising.. So yeah.. get the bitter truth and keep writing long comments to prove still the truth is always the truth.. and yeah u can bhakts and whatever..

  6. If the purpose of the article was to convince us of Modi’s crisis management experience and expertise, you shouldn’t even have whispered Godhra! Was parading dead bodies on the the streets crisis management or crisis escalation?! Besides, we got a shocking reminder of Godhra during the Delhi riots. Policemen breaking CCTV cameras.. Policemen throwing stones.. Incendiary speeches.. No cases filed against the ones who were responsible, so that if need be, the riots can be repeated again!

    Whether the first speech was a success depends on how you look at it. Politically? Yes!! But in the fight against the virus, definitely no. He could not have predicted the chaos at 5pm, but was coming together to clap a good idea when we are supposed to maintain distance? Even on the Saturday before the Janata Curfew, orders for protective equipment had not been placed. Manufacturers have been sitting around, waiting for weeks! Is that mismanagement or misplaced priorities?! For the doctors the clapping was for, it seemed like they were being mocked.

    When you announce a lockdown at 8pm, panic buying is obvious. You don’t need to be a genius to predict that. In case you’re unaware, it happened on Saturday too.. Of course, primetime exposure was more important! Is it not necessary to say that food supplies will not be affected in any way.. that you will be allowed to go and buy food?! Was it not important to say that those who don’t have food will be taken care of?! Poor labourers are walking hundreds of kilometres. With no food. Maybe even taking the disease along with them. Transporting MLAs to other states happens with clockwork precision. But neither have arrangements been made to provide the poor migrants with food and shelter, nor to transport them!

    Sure, other countries are worse off.. but we had the warning.. we saw what was happening around the world well before we were affected this badly. But the lockdown had to wait until MP fell in BJPs hands. At least medical facilities could have been scaled up while you were waiting for it!

    We know that the countries that successfully fought the disease tested extensively. Any effort made to do that? A relative of mine is in self quarantine. He happened to travel in a plane with someone who tested positive a week after the journey. But he is not being tested because the testing infrastructure cannot handle it. If by chance he does show symptoms, he will be tested. If he does test positive, he would have passed the virus on to a few dozens already. Now, all of them cannot be tested either, and so the cycle will continue.

    Raising NREGA wages by a token amount, and making no arrangements to pass on the money since no work is happening.. Is that crisis management?

    The virus is not Modi’s fault. But this epic mismanagement is going to drive us into a mess that will be much bigger than it should have been. The worst is yet to come. I hope he realises that food for EVERYONE should be taken care of, some way or the other. Also medical infrastructure and equipment. Only the prime minister has the power and the resources to coordinate such a massive exercise.

    From what we’ve seen so far, Modi’s strength is political management, not crisis management. For, if the politics requires it, he’ll create the crisis!! After Rahul Gandhi predicted this in February.. and whatever the propaganda machine may say, it seems that Modi is turning out to be the real Pappu!!

  7. Mr Modi does not MANAGE crises, he CREATES crises. He reminds me of a Lower Division Clerk in a government office. Such a clerk derives perverse pleasure out of the sufferings of the people who approach him, and for the same reason feels very important himself! The give away is: Mr Modi couldn’t have not known that demonetisation would decimate poor people ; in the present case, he could have easily added a line in his speech that essential commodities will remain available.
    I am criticizing Mr Modi because I want him to become a better human being. I know he can do it, he has it in him, to become a better human being. He is definitely not a diabolical gone case like, say, Adityanath. People do not realize it, because he hasn’t had enough public exposure to “prove” himself, but even Ravi Shankar Prasad is a very dangerous man. Modi ji is a very sweet person compared to these two.

      • Hahaha, thanks, Bro! I think someone needs to start a campaign – – REFORM MODI JI. He is a charismatic leader, he only needs to be kind hearted like a great man, and not petty minded like a vindictive woman.

  8. Modi is the only honest and man with integrity PM other than Lal Bahadur Shastri. All other thugs and corrupt Janata Raja’s looted India.

  9. How naive this writer could be? to be very honest, this is not a right time to be a cheer leader of Mr. Modi,. Writers like Mr Chari should control themselves for not engaging in image building exercise. for Mr. Modi.
    Yes it is very much true, Mr. Modi’s CV is full of crisis as well event management experiences too. Last Sunday was a classic example of it. I think, in a exceptional crisis like this Modi should come clean, with honesty. No tampering with figures either of Covid 19 or economic packages. No sermon either.
    And who is this senior journalist praising Mr. Modi ?. Please name him or her. Don’t be ambiguous. People should know who is this SAKSHATKARI person is.
    And If possible convince Mr. Modi to be unbiased with his reactions and media interactions, with his compassion and forgiveness. At least at the time of pandemic like this. It’s a mean act to invite only usual favourite and left out others in the media for VC. Sorry to say, along with all his deeds this also will determine his stature. You can’t be a leader, forget world leader pretending Messiah at the time of crisis only. One has to be equally honest at the time of elections and riots like situations, You can’t put a stamp on your own people ( Bees Crore to be precise) as a enemy. This is best time for leader like Mr. Modi to reinvent himself. What to say more ?

    • It appears that, you have not understood the real leadership in our PM. Look at the present covid 19 numbers in India, the lowest figure in our present system , is an achievement to his skill.

      • Experts have been saying for weeks that this is because we have not been testing enough people. And if we don’t test enough people, the virus deaths will explode after the lockdown is lifted!

        The problem is that a person who has the virus may not show any symptoms for 2 weeks. And in those 2 weeks, he may pass it on to everyone he comes in contact with. So you have to test everyone who may have been exposed, irrespective of whether they have shown any symptoms. The countries that succeeded did this.. the ones who did not are facing the worst. I hope I’m wrong, but we may just be at the beginning of it!

  10. India being the largest democracy of world is facing a huge challenge, both at the healthcare and economic fronts. But the governments policy to lock down is an appreciable step, although it will definitely slow down our growth and employment opportunities. But once country will win this war on virus it will not only grow faster but also unprecedentedly due to its market potential. But what we must ought to promote Gandhian idea of production masses but not mass production.
    Once the things normalize we can increase our robustness in productivity. Although China is trying to capture the world market but in coming years China will definitely face a new revolution within its own economy , mass production without market.

  11. Mr SESHADRI, It’s not just Modi’s war. There is no option to lose this war. It has to be won by every Indian participating in it. Modi haters wishes can’t be met at least in war against Corona.

  12. After the pandemic is brought under control – at the moment it is impossible to predict its course, duration and human costs – the government will have to put the pieces together for the economy. It has been adrift for a long time now. After Covid 19, it will be in terrible shape. This is not the economic team that will bring the World Cup home.

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