Modernity as a set of attitudes based on reason, or as the cultivation of scientific temper, was informed by the imperative of development in a postcolonial state like India. Alongside the rise of democracy, there was the pressing need for removing poverty and ensuring fulfilment of basic needs for the common people. It is in this sphere of addressing poverty and underdevelopment that India became modern in a very material and substantive sense. The paper makes a case for an understanding of modernity that is deeply rooted in the material needs of the people and traces this impulse of development modernity from the time of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru till the present government led by Narendra Modi. While doing so, it problematises Nehru’s and Modi’s statist understanding of development and brings them to conversation to understand the continuing promise of modernity predicated on development. In the process both Nehru and Modi are interpreted vis-à-vis the times they lived in as well as their responses to what constituted India’s core values, their relationship with modernity and development’s place in it.