It was visible during the election campaign, when he used to address half a dozen rallies and head back home to Gandhinagar only to hold late night review meetings and start once again in the wee hours of the morning. But it has become even starker as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has settled down to govern New Delhi.
You agree or disagree with him – but there is one indisputable fact. India has not seen a PM with Modi’s energy level for a long time. And for a man who just turned 64, his work ethic will put leaders decades younger to him to shame.
On Saturday, Modi hit the poll trail – campaigning for BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana. He will do so for the next ten days. But look at his schedule over the last week or so.
Modi launched the Make in India campaign on September 26th – addressing top businessmen. The same afternoon, he headed to the US.
On the 27th morning, he paid homage of the 9/11 victims, took a quick round of UN and met Secretary General Ban ki Moon, addressed the General Assembly, immediately headed back for meetings with Sri Lankan president, Bangladesh PM, and Nepal PM, met a few elected American officials, and distinguished Indians, and then addressed a 60,000 strong crowd at Central Park.
Each day was as packed and Modi had to put on different avatars – being a public orator at the Madison Square Garden; laying out his policy vision at the Council for Foreign Relations, being the celebrity meeting each guest at dinners organized in his honor; engaging with US industry to convince them that he means business; and helping bring back the bilateral relationship with US on an even keel in Washington. Even President Barack Obama, a US administration official later said, was impressed with Modi's energy and wondered about the secret behind it.
Modi arrived in Delhi late on October 1, and the next day, early in the morning, he was out paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi. He made a surprise visit to a police station to check its cleanliness, picked a broom, and launched the Swachh Bharat campaign. On Friday, Modi hit the radio with his maiden address to the nation. And besides these public engagements, he was holding meetings with his officials, overseeing the basic tasks of governance, and clearing files.
Some perspective however is important here. Manmohan Singh too was hard-working by all accounts. And he was almost two decades older.
But where Modi is different is the sheer physical stamina. Remember, he was on fast, surviving on warm water. And he was on a long distance flight, which makes even veterans air travelers reel from jet lag.
BJP MP from Ahmedabad, Paresh Rawal, has narrated how he had once asked Modi after his return from Brazil, ‘Saheb, jet lag?” Modi had responded, “Kis baat ka jetlag? Kaam hai, sochoge to jetlag aayega.” This echoes what bureaucrats who have worked with him suggest. “He is on permanent campaign mode. The man is a machine,” one Gandhinagar official told HT.
What is a medical explanation for this kind of stamina? "Our PM as far as we know is a healthy man who is known to follow a disciplined lifestyle that includes practicing yoga," said a senior doctor from the department of medicine at New Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Another senior doctor at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) agrees, "As long as he is into yoga and meditation, he will be able to sail through the stress that comes as part of his profession. Apart from that he will have to be regular with his preventive check-ups."
In a TV interview, Modi was asked how he relaxed, and he said, “I am not the ‘not working’ type. I derive pleasure from my work. Work gives me relaxation too.”