Uccasaim, Goa: The country does not seem to get enough of Narendra Modi. Because of Modi, West Bengal is rallying to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as never before. In Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP has become the chief opposition to local parties such as the People’s Democratic Party and the National Conference. Unbelievably, the Tripura Chief Minister, the long-reigning Manik Sarkar of the Communist Party of India - Marxist, has invited Prime Minister Modi to advise his cabinet on good governance. What is it about Modi that is getting such wide embrace after commencing from great opposition?

Narendra Modi, conceivably, is the first genuine people’s prime minister. True, all Indian prime ministers have been elected by the people and that is because India is a democracy. You cannot have it otherwise. But all the prime ministers before Modi have remained remote from the people, including Jawaharlal Nehru and H. D. Deve Gowda, a so-called farmer prime minister. Remoteness is a natural outcome of prime ministry; you cannot administer from a glass house, however transparent and plebeian your sensibilities.

But what makes Narendra Modi different is that he goes to the people. He set something of a record of public meetings during this year’s general election. This is understandable; he has to connect with people for votes. But he has not changed in office. He is employing every opportunity to engage the people and grow intimate. He is embarked on a big tour of the North East, an alienated region of India. Similarly, he is concentrating on Jammu and Kashmir. He has novel development ideas for these entities. In due course, presumably, he will cover the country.

For a prime minister, this is unprecedented and welcome. Every justification can be offered to tie the prime minister to the desk. Manmohan Singh was desk-bound. He had no energy or inclination for domestic travel. India cannot be run by file work alone. People have to be made a part of government. Their participation in governance is of utmost importance. Narendra Modi wants to share the burden of governance with the people. He is not saying “vote for me” and “forget about governance”. He is saying again and again that governance is not possible without public participation and enthusiasm. The Swachh Bharat campaign is a good example; the Make-in-India policy is not substantially different in its core aims and objectives.

Narendra Modi is opposed to the entitlement mindset encouraged and propagated by the previous government. He is pushing people to recognize their inherent strengths and optimize individual potential. He is keen to unlock India’s entrepreneurial energies. People who oppose Modi say that he is forever engaged in monologue. That is not true. In every initiative of his, he seeks public advice and suggestions. It could relate to a reinvented Planning Commission or to re-energizing the railways. A monologue essentially is a one-way communication. But Narendra Modi has a receptive audience. He is giving them a better understanding of their own selves; he is showing the path that they only vaguely knew existed.

These endeavours would normally be successful over the long term. But Narendra Modi is determined to squeeze them comfortably within the electoral cycle of a single term of five years. Tall order? With anyone else, perhaps. But Modi has great energy and resolve. He wants results within the next two or three years. He is working hard for it; very hard. But he understands and accepts no amount of pure individual effort will succeed, which is the reason for his constant engagement with the people. He doesn’t talk down to the people like the Nehru-Gandhis; he has no sense of entitlement. He engages people; he has made them a partner in progress and development.

Will he have an easy time of it? By no means. Getting a mammoth country on its feet is not an easy task. Nevertheless, India cannot practice democracy in the conservative way, where the people become alienated from it the moment it is elected. The adversarial model has flopped in the sixty years since independence. Narendra Modi is making clear that administration and good governance are not the responsibilities alone of the government; people have to cooperate for their success. This is the reason for his going to their midst time and again. Smart politicians like Manik Sarkar understand Narendra Modi’s genius and won’t permit ideological differences to stand in the way. On the other hand, votebank players like Mamata Bannerjee and Nitish Kumar will oppose and obstruct him because they cannot do better.

But people’s power is on Narendra Modi’s side so long he stays connected with them and is not influenced by electoral considerations. Modi’s success will lie in getting the people to rebuild their own strengths. He knows this better than most. Knowingly or unknowingly, he is changing the rules of the game.