Chutzpa is a word adopted from Hebrew/Jewish vocabulary. In Hebrew, it has a negative connotation, but of late in English, especially used by Americans, it is something to do with audacity. Former US president Barack Obama wrote a book titled Audacity of Hope; it could well be titled Chutzpah of Hope.
The word audacity borders arrogance and defiance. He had the “audacity to insult me” means he had the guts or the gumption or the cheek to say this. Oprah Winfrey’s Chutzpah Awards, presented annually to “women whose chutzpah—audacity, nerve, boldness, conviction—has taken them to the most amazing places.”
For instance, Narendra Modi made some tough decisions in his first six years in power, which many didn’t like. Demonetization was one and the immediate lockdown of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic and the abrogation of Article 370 were all like chutzpa moments.
The air strike on Balakot in Pakistan, Indian aircraft crossing the Line of Control (LOC), and going 80 km deep to bomb terrorist camps in Pakistan was a very tricky and risky decision. Anything could have gone wrong—but he did it. The executive order was given by him. An ordinary man will not be able to sleep with this kind of stress.
When US president Truman ordered the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it was a tough decision—in fact, the toughest one for any president till date.
Ever since August 6, 1945, when the first atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima, the human race has lived in fear of nuclear annihilation.
In the annals of history, few events have had more import than this first atomic bombing, and no historical figure has been associated with this bomb more than Harry Truman, who commanded his military to use the new weapon less than four months after taking office.
The Republic summit 2023- A chutzpa event?
PM Narendra Modi and his select cabinet ministers spoke at the Republic Summit on 25th and 26th of April 2023,- the theme being transforming India- which gave me the idea of writing this piece.
He has the guts to take difficult decisions even putting his political existence at risk. With opposition, foreign media and several guys within the nation all watching like hawks and are looking for one single major failure by him or his administration so that he could drown or they can take him down. With such an environment, taking risky decisions is still more risky and requires tremendous courage of conviction.
Let me illustrate this with an example. Every safe flying trapeze rig in a circus has a large safety net underneath the ring. If an artist/gymnast misses a catch, or slips and falls off the bar, he lands on the net and is saved. In case of PM Modi the risks and stakes are higher than one could imagine, they have national and international ramifications and he is doing it without a safety net!
One thing which he mentioned in his stellar speech was that the entire opposition was asking him to go for importing Covid Vaccine and there was no point making our own. In any case someone will come out with one and all we need to do was to pay and buy!
He said this was the easiest thing to do but he wanted ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat- self-reliant India and went ahead with indigenous development and mass production of vaccines at home. He was candid enough to say that he had put his entire political capital at risk- but he did it.
In case of Truman, it was millions of Japanese that would perish due to Atomic bombing but in case of Modi, it was lives of his own people at risk- and that is the major difference.
All most all the members of his council of ministers who had spoken before him had said that the biggest strength of the Prime Minister was to take risks. This was one reason his team always stood by him.
The greatest art of leadership and acumen of a great leader is to produce and motivate more leaders. Republic summit in more than one way demonstrated that Modi ji is a great leader who has nurtured great team of leaders in his cabinet colleagues. You cannot run a 1.4 billion strong economy single handed- though he personally gets involved with ministers to give clear directions and sets an accountable road map.
‘The only safe ship in a storm is leadership’ Faye Wattle ton
Each one of the participating ministers on the dais were fully charged up and spoke with passion and facts on the ground. It was like India firing on all cylinders at once.
Mr. Nitin Gadkari Minister of Road transport and highways in India told the nation that highways are the connectivity that would make cost of logistics lower and make us a more competitive production hub for the entire world. It impacts our economy directly. He even quoted John F Kennedy that ‘American roads are not good because America is rich, but America is rich because American roads are good’. This is the focus and commitment at the national level in India. He gave several statistics which were mind boggling. The work is going at breakneck speed on Tunnels, Highways and bridges.
Ashwani Vaishnav the railway minister who is a Post graduate in Engineering from an IIT and Management graduate from Wharton business school, presented his achievements brilliantly. Modi ji has picked up the right people for the right job- which is a great leadership skill. If one looks at earlier Ministers, I don’t think anyone would be anywhere close to him in his experience and relevance of his education to the job at hand. Arnab Goswamy the editor in chief of Republic did mention that earlier ministers were happy doling out railway stations to their own constituency and state but today things were different. Today focus was on overall progress across the country. The minister told the audience that most of the stuff was produced in India. Our train is doing 0 to 100 kmph in 52 seconds beating the Japanese bullet train by full 2 seconds. We were building and commissioning, Vande Bharat trains at a breakneck speed. He told the audience that the PM didn’t believe in delta changes which means tiny changes but wanted quantum shifts in every field. Railway tracks, stations and quality of trains was totally different. Indians were given trains with technologies of 1940 or 1960 till now. Today we are giving world class at par with the best in the world. He also mentioned that the kind of knowledge the PM has in advance technologies like AI and quantum computing is unbelievable.
Hardeep Puri the minister for energy and urban development was setting a different benchmark. Importing crude from Russia was a big geopolitical decision and a shift in foreign policy. Today we are setting the world agenda through G20 and a robust foreign policy stance. He proudly announced that more than 2000 archaic laws which were created by the British and no more relevant today had been scrapped. How our students from Ukraine were rescued and how India helped other nations during times of crisis was to be proud of. Today every Indian going abroad is proud to be an Indian. This is something which does not seem to be tangible but in fact is most tangible of all achievements.
Jyotiraditya Scindia minister for civil aviation explained how hub and spoke model was being implemented to take aviation to the last mile – by connecting to Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities, even reaching border areas. How airports were being modernized and new ones coming up at a rapid rate.
Piyush Goyal, who holds charge of multiple ministries like, commerce, textiles and public distribution also gave an idea of how the PM wants cities and states in the North East given a priority which for the last six decades were neglected. Roads bridges and Industrial development is taking place even in states where there is only one Lok Sabha seat! Which means ‘the government is focusing on entire nation and not looking at political leveraging’.
Of course the last one to speak on the summit was PM himself. He did give an overall perspective on transformation of the nation.
Today the world is looking at our digital India initiative. When at the press of a button by the PM millions of beneficiaries get money directly in their accounts instantly, even amazed most of the countries in the west. The scale and speed often becomes unbelievable for the leaders in the west who now look up to PM Modi for his indulgence and guidance.
If this is not Chutzpa of a nation and its leadership, then what is?
‘One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything is fine today is our illusion’