New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi spoke to a global markets forum in the US on Monday by video conference from India, outlining his concept of governance and democracy and stressing the need for participative politics, as he tries to widen his appeal beyond the nation’s borders.

The Gujarat chief minister, seeking to dispel frequent criticism of him being a divisive politician, said good governance must be system-based and policy-driven—one in which people are not just beneficiaries but also participants in decision making.

Democracy should be participative and not just representative, Modi said in his English-language speech to the Global Meet of Emerging Markets Forum in Washington. People are ready to accept tough decisions by governments once they are convinced that they are meant for greater good, he said.

“Democracy in true sense is an organic system. In a democracy, listening to people is a must," Modi said. “We have to increase our own capacity to listen. The real problem is that we take government to be a provider and people as beneficiaries. This needs to change as it is preventing people from being active partners in development."

“Today we talk about representative democracy but we have to now move towards participatory democracy and increase the level of participation of people," Modi said.

Since Modi was anointed as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in September, he has been trying to project a persona that’s at variance with the picture his critics have tried to paint of him—of a polarizing politician with a divisive agenda based on the concept of Hindutva.

Modi’s stress on democracy in Monday’s speech may have had something to do with his audience being in the US, where democratic values have penetrated deeper than they have in India, said one political analyst.

“It is this world view that will resonate with these people, who are part of a mature democracy where people are more participative and they are stakeholders. The emphasis on democratic values will also help Narendra Modi get rid of the tag of being a fascist," said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based analyst.

Modi’s stress on transparency and stakeholders’ participation was aimed as much at corporate entities as it was at the political stage, Mrug said. “He is addressing both these sections simultaneously."

Modi, who has led the BJP to victory to three successive terms in office in Gujarat, said: “People also differentiate between good and bad governance. We have seen this in three consecutive elections in Gujarat. People have supported us even during natural calamities. We sailed through these phases and emerged stronger and stronger each time."

India cannot have a better model of governance than democracy, in which the government acts as the guardian of the interests of the people, Modi said, describing democracy as a self-correcting system which has internal controls.

“With the use of technology, the exchange of information between the government and people could be on a real-time basis," he said, citing his own state as an example. “The Gujarat government asks people to participate in policymaking by providing draft policy documents online so that people can give their views and the final policy document can be owned by both the government and people."

On the issue of development and growth, Modi said that it was a mistake to treat countries simply as markets.

“Instead of calling these countries markets, they can be called emerging growth centres. The world is becoming smaller and smaller and it’s an age of communication. Companies are looking for cost-effective locations."

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