What do Modi and Dhoni have in common?

Gyanendra Keshri, Executive Editor, INCLUSION

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and captain of Indian cricket cricket team Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

It is often said that the two most important jobs in India, respectively, are that of two champions: the prime minister and the captain of the national cricket team (number one and two position depends on the individual and perception). Politics and cricket dominate the average Indians psyche. Wherever you go, be it an elite socialite gathering or people sitting at a roadside dhaba or traveling in train or bus, the most common topic of discussion is either politics or cricket.

Well, the focus of here is not drawing a comparison between politics and cricket. I am trying to draw a parallel between the successes of the captains of these two areas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is clearly the captain of the Indian politics. He has led his party (team) to a phenomenal success in the general election on a promise of acche din (good times). Figures indicate that the promised acche din are just round the corner. Many argue that lady luck is favouring Modi and things are looking better even in the areas where he has done hardly anything.

This compels me to draw a parallel between the successes of Modi and the captain of the national cricket team Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Both come from humble backgrounds; have great leadership ability, focus on common sense and most of all have proved lucky for India.

In the 2011 World Cup final, when India lost third wicket against Sri Lanka, Dhoni, despite being not in a good form, promoted himself in the order, to general surprise. He proved himself right. He scored 91 not out from 79 balls and finished the game with a six. This helped India win the World Cup for the first time in 28 years. Dhoni has taken unconventional decisions several times and led the team to success. Most of the time critics and analysts term it as sheer luck.

What makes Dhoni a successful captain? He has never demonstrated any exceptional tactical tricks or psychological masterstrokes. His leadership is defined by common sense and tranquility, which never appears to be disturbed despite constant attention from billion-plus people and criticism.

Prime Minister Modi also seems today riding on a similar wave of good luck. There is no radical change or big-bang reform, as speculated and prescribed by several self-appointed advisors and analysts. Modi has so far stuck to the basics and common sense. This seems to be delivering the results as the recent data gives an indication that the acche din (good times) are here. The GDP growth is at three-year high, inflation has eased, rupee stabilised, forex reserves ballooned and the stock markets indices hit an all time high.

Critics and analysts argue that the improvements in the macro-economic numbers are sheer luck and not just the result of what Modi Government, which assumed office just three-and-a-half month back, has done.

Let’s first analyse the economic growth data. India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 5.7 per cent in April-June quarter of the current financial year, the best performance in more than two years. Modi became prime minister on May 26. The data covers the period from April to June. Out of 91 days that the GDP data relates to, Modi was in power for only 35 days. Most of his ministers would have hardly understood their portfolios well during that period, so it won’t be correct to credit them for this acceleration in the economic growth.

However, the number came out in August-end and for the common people it is an achievement for the Modi Government. Here, it’s obviously more about the luck than good management or reforms. The monsoon this year is below normal. Its impact will be seen in July-September and subsequent quarters. It will be interesting to see whether Modi proves lucky with the GDP numbers in these quarters.

Buoyancy in stock markets, rupee stability, inflation, foreign exchange reserves and positive fiscal and current account deficit numbers are linked to the positive developments in the global economy.

Here also the lady luck is favouring Modi. Crude oil price has fallen to around $100 per barrel after touching $115 a barrel earlier this year. Prices of other commodities including gold and silver have eased. This will help curb oil and fertiliser subsidies and lower trade deficit. The current account deficit, which was a big worry around this time last fiscal, seems in a healthy position due to the easing in global crude oil prices and lower gold imports.

The indication of scaling back stimulus measures and hike in interest rates by the Federal Reserve in early 2013 had led to a huge outflow of money from India and other emerging economies. As a result, rupee crashed to 68 against a dollar and overseas investors dumped Indian stocks. Then finance minister P Chidambaram had blamed bad luck in external factors for the economic mess.

No doubt, the macro-economic data looks rosy today whatever be the reasons. The need is to sustain the real momentum beyond simple luck.

(Gyanendra Keshri can be reached at gyanendra@skoch.in)

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