New Delhi: It is more than a cliche that you are very alone at the top. It happens to be true. When you are captaining a big ship like India, the load on you is crushing. There is no one to share the load for Narendra Modi. He isn’t a nominal prime minister like his predecessor. He is not a prime minister in less expectant times such as Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were. The youth population is booming and their aspirations scale the skies.

The electorate wants Prime Minister Modi to succeed. It sees him as hope personified to raise them from the backwardness of 60 years of Congress rule. But the transformation that the electorate seeks is opposed by key sections of the political establishment and the media. Sonia Gandhi would rather have India fail than see Modi succeed. Her recent picture gesticulating to the cameras and circulated on the internet tells it all. She opposes the Naga Accord. Can you believe that? It is the best thing after the exchange of corridors with Bangladesh and she is antipathetic. Awful.

The miserable and wasteful hold-up of Parliament can also be squarely laid at her door. The target is not Sushma Swaraj. Don’t ever believe that. It is Narendra Modi. Sonia Gandhi wants a rift in the government and the BJP leadership. Once a rift develops, it will become difficult for Modi. It will bring her closer to the object to destroy the prime minister.

Modi knows her tactics. He will not succumb to her tricks. He doesn’t have too many options, however. He cannot take tough action without weakening his government. On the other hand, the parliamentary shutdown is hampering reforms. Modi’s plans for quick socio-economic recovery have been affected.

A weak and vain prime minister like V. P. Singh would have gone under long ago. Modi is made of sterner stuff. Years of facing challenges as the Gujarat chief minister have made him tough and wise beyond his years. In the present phase, Modi has hunkered down. He is following Confucius that “When the wind blows, the grass bends.”

There is something that Modi can learn too from A. B. Vajpayee’s example. Winning public sympathy is a great thing for a political leader in trying times. When Vajpayee was sorely tried by the coterie around L. K. Advani, he often sought solace and stability from the non-BJP NDA allies. When the Loh Purush-Vikas Purush controversy broke out during one of Vajpayee’s foreign visits, he let public sympathy push Advani on the back-foot. He never spoke against Advani but nevertheless put him on the defensive.

Public sympathy is with Narendra Modi now. Here is a prime minister who puts long hours of work and is neither deflected by family or friends. He is not being allowed to work by Sonia Gandhi and the Congress and the media is pursuing him like a rat pack. Apparently, a big business group with sprawling interests in the media has decided to oppose him because the prime minister won’t cut deals like the Congress did. The media arm of this group has turned its flak full on Modi.

Others before Modi have been in this situation. He has to keep persevering at the prime ministry. He has to be incremental in his steps. A country of India’s size and complexity cannot be turned around in one year or even five. Small, irreversible steps have to be taken. These will lead to bigger decisions. Who could have imagined that provident fund would be invested in the stock market? That is the route to growth.

A section of the media is apoplectic about Modi’s retreat on the land bill. It is easier to be a columnist than the prime minister. As a hack, you can be rash, opinionated and entirely unaccountable. The prime minister does not have this luxury. Modi’s retreat on the land bill is strategic. He has to reduce the fighting fronts and he has done just that. There are important elements in the opposition who are repulsed by the reactionary politics of Sonia Gandhi. The retreat on the land bill likely came on their advice. Modi couldn’t have imposed it at a time when other less sensitive reforms’ measures haven’t borne fruit.

This is a learning phase for Modi. He is probably prioritizing the immediately achievable and deferring the rest for the moment. In this phase, it is most important for the government to remain stable and let nothing derail the long-term plans. Sonia Gandhi’s vicious politics is opening the eyes of the country to how low the Congress can go for power. The Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is killing itself daily little by little by its absolute heartlessness for India’s welfare. Would any responsible political leader oppose a peace accord?

Time is on Narendra Modi’s side. The bad phase will go. Leaders of the long haul draw at such times on their great inner reserves of strength. When Winston Churchill took over the wartime leadership, everything was falling apart. America was wavering. Europe was crumbling against the Nazi assault. The Soviets couldn’t be counted upon. Alone, Churchill gathered together a tiny island nation to fight Adolf Hitler. This is pure leadership. Narendra Modi will not be the first and last embattled lonely man on top.

He must go on doing what he is.