MUMBAI | NEW DELHI: India Inc welcomed Narendra Modi’s nomination as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate on the strength of his track record in transforming Gujarat, although some wondered whether it would be possible to replicate the model across the country.
“It’s advantage BJP. They have scored a point,” said TV Mohandas Pai, chairman, Manipal Global Education.
Nirmal Jain, chairman of India Infoline, said the development makes the upcoming election more interesting. The positive response to a Modi candidacy had been clearly anticipated in last week’s ET Confidence Survey of 100 leading CEOs. Almost three-fourths of those polled said they wanted Modi to be India’s next prime minister, reflecting Corporate India’s wish for a strong and decisive leader. In contrast, Rahul Gandhi got the backing of just 7%.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) overruled senior leader LK Advani in naming the Gujarat chief minister as its prime ministerial candidate for the next general election. “It’s good news for the country. Modi has done a good job for Gujarat. Hopefully, he will replicate the same in the rest of the country,” said Gautam Singhania, CMD of Raymond Ltd.
Many top CEOs and industrialists declined comment, but those that did praised the choice.
ICICI Bank Chairman KV Kamath lauded the Gujarat development model without going into the politics of the matter. “I would like to look at the economic aspect, without really looking at the political construct,” he told ET NOW. “Clearly, the Gujarat model is something that we can be proud of… certainly can be proud of… I can’t see why it can’t be replicated because other chief ministers are trying to understand and build on it.”
Rana Kapoor, founder and managing director of YES Bank, said that if the Gujarat model of governance with industrial and economic development sustained over almost a decade-and-ahalf can be migrated to other parts of the country and applied to reforms management, which is the need of the hour, it could augur well for the country.
Gujarat’s development model has been lauded for consistently delivering high growth and low unemployment. A number of domestic and international companies have poured money into the state’s economy, lifting and transforming Modi’s profile across the country.
“Gujarat hasn’t been this way all this time. Modi has come in and has focused on various fronts, one of the areas he has been very successful is rooting out corruption,” said Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson and founder of Biocon. “He had focused on very innovative policies for the state, so I am sure he wants to replicate it at the national level.”
Some brokers and market experts were more bullish, saying the markets could get excited by BJP’s choice. “Modi may completely change the equation in the forthcoming general election,” said CJ George, CEO and managing director of Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services. “Markets will get excited by Narendra Modi’s appointment as they see him as a man of vision and action.”
Jain of India Infoline said that Modi’s elevation has already been factored in by the market and the next trigger could be if he promises a stable government ahead of elections.
India is scheduled to go to polls early next year when the current UPA government completes its second five-year term. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is presiding over a deeply unpopular government and an economy wracked by high inflation, low growth and a volatile currency.
“It’s certainly a bold move that Rajnath Singh pulled off,” said Arvind Sharma, chairman and CEO (India sub-continent), Leo Burnett, and the man behind UPA-1’s ‘Aam Aadmi Ko Kya Mila’ campaign. “Just 6-8 months ago, it would have seemed difficult. It must have taken quite a bit of manoeuvering. I guess it will maximise the seats BJP will get. Whether they get to power finally, only time will tell. Narendra Modi certainly enjoys more support than the options the party had.”
Mohandas Pai said the election will be determined by young voters, who form about 30% of the electorate. “About 60-70% of them will vote. They will be a big swing factor. This election will be the fight for India’s youth — pro-growth, pro-industry, pro-jobs policies will catch the attention of this young population,” Pai said. “It will be better if Congress names Rahul Gandhi — then the fight will be clear, and Rahul also has great following. Narendra Modi has mastered the art of the campaign. Issues in the elections will be youth-centric — inflation, jobs will be the issue, and not Rs 1 rice or MGNREGA.” Madhukar Kamath, group CEO & MD, DDB Mudra Group, said he’s glad that BJP made up its mind to go with what seemed an obvious choice a few months ago. “This should give them a headstart in planning their strategy for the elections next year. At the same time, this would force a response from Congress too.”
The support for Modi is consistent with the praise that the country’s top industrialists have showered on him over the years.
In January 2009, Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal said: “Chief Minister Modi is known as a CEO, but he is actually not a CEO because he is not running a company or a sector. He is running a state and can also run (the) nation.”
In January 2013, Anil Ambani said, “Narendrabhai literally is the lord of men, a leader among leaders and the king among kings.” Mukesh Ambani said he was “a leader with a grand vision”, also in January. Ratan Tata, who found a home for the Nano plant in Gujarat when it had to be relocated from West Bengal, has also been effusive in his praise for Modi.
“Today, when investors look for locations to make investments, they would be looking for locations which are investor-friendly. Gujarat stands out distinctly in the country and the credit for it goes to Modi,” he said in January.