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Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Narendra Damodardas Modi, (born 17 September 1950) is the 15th and current Prime Minister of India, in office since May 2014. Modi, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), previously served as the Chief Minister of Gujarat state from 2001 to 2014. He is currently the Member of Parliament (MP) from Varanasi. Modi led the BJP in the 2014 general election, which resulted in an outright majority for the BJP in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian parliament) – the last time that any party had secured an outright majority in the Lok Sabha was in 1984. Since then, Modi has also been credited for the BJP’s electoral victories in the states of Haryana and Maharashtra in October 2014.

Modi is a Hindu Nationalist and a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He is a controversial figure both within India as well as internationally as his administration has been criticised for failing to act to prevent the 2002 Gujarat riots. Modi has been praised for his economic policies, which are credited with creating an environment for a high rate of economic growth in Gujarat. However, his administration has also been criticised for failing to make a significant positive impact upon the human development of the state.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Early life & Education

Narendra Modi was born on 17 September 1950 to a family of grocers in Vadnagar, Mehsana district, in Bombay State (present-day Gujarat). His family belonged to the Ghanchi (oil-presser) community, which is categorised among the other backward classes by the Indian government. He was the third of six children born to Damodardas Mulchand and Heeraben Modi. As a child, he helped his father Damodardas sell tea at the Vadnagar railway station, and later ran a tea stall with his brother near a bus terminus. He completed his schooling in Vadnagar in 1967, where a teacher described him as being an average student, but a keen debater with an interest in theatre.  An early gift for rhetoric in debates was noted by teachers and students at the time. Modi also showed a preference for playing larger than life characters in theatre performances which has influenced the image he portrays of himself in politics.

At the age of eight, Modi came into contact with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and began attending its local shakhas, or training sessions. There he met Lakshmanrao Inamdar, popularly known as Vakil Saheb, who was to become Modi’s political mentor. Inamdar inducted Modi as a balswayamsevak, or junior cadet in the RSS. While training with the RSS, he also met Vasant Gajendragadkar and Nathalal Jaghda, Bharatiya Jana Sangh leaders who were later founding members of the BJP’s Gujarat unit in 1980.

In keeping with the traditions of the Ghanchi caste, Modi’s marriage was arranged by his parents while he was still a child. He was engaged at the age of 13 to Jashodaben Chimanlal, and married when he was 18. They spent little time together, and were soon estranged when Modi decided to pursue an itinerant life. The marriage was reportedly never consummated. Modi kept the marriage secret for most of his career, only acknowledging the existence of his wife when filing his nomination for a parliamentary seat in the 2014 general elections.

Little is known of the time he spent traveling; however, in interviews Modi has spoken of visiting various Hindu ashrams, or places of Hindu religious learning, founded by Swami Vivekananda. The first of these was the Belur Math near Kolkata. He later visited the Advaita Ashrama in Almora, and the Ramakrishna mission in Rajkot. However he was only able to stay for a short period in each ashram, as he lacked a college education, and the institutions were strictly limited to postgraduates.  After two years of travel, Modi returned to Vadnagar, and after a brief visit left again for Ahmedabad. Here he lived with his uncle and worked at a canteen also run by his uncle at the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation. In Ahmedabad, Modi renewed his acquaintance with Inamdar, who was then based at Hedgewar Bhavan, the RSS headquarters in the city.  After the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, he stopped working for his uncle and became a full–time pracharak (campaigner) of the RSS. In 1978, Modi became a sambhaag pracharak (regional organiser) for the RSS, and also graduated with an extramural degree in political science through a distance education course at Delhi University. In 1983, he completed his Master of Arts degree in political science from Gujarat University.

Early Political Career

On 26 June 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a unilateral state of emergency throughout the country, which lasted until 1977. During this period, many of her political opponents were jailed, and organisations opposing her, including the RSS, were banned. At the time, Modi was the pracharak in-charge of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS. He was forced to go underground in Gujarat, and frequently traveled in disguise to avoid being arrested. He became involved in printing booklets against the central government and distributing them to Delhi, as well as organising agitations. During this period, he also wrote a book in Gujarati titled Sangharsh ma Gujarat (The struggles of Gujarat) which described events during the emergency.

The RSS assigned Modi to the BJP in 1985. In 1988, Modi was elected an organising secretary of BJP’s Gujarat unit, marking his formal entry into electoral politics. He rose to prominence within the party after helping organise L. K. Advani’s Ayodhya Rath Yatra in 1990 and Murli Manohar Joshi’s Ekta Yatra (Journey for Unity) in 1991–92. His electoral strategy as secretary was seen to be central to the BJP’s victory in the 1995 state assembly elections. Later in the same year in November, Modi was elected National Secretary of the BJP, and was transferred to New Delhi where he was assigned responsibility for the party’s activities in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. In 1996, Shankersinh Vaghela, one of the most prominent leaders of the BJP in Gujarat, defected to the INC after he lost his parliamentary seat in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. While on the selection committee for the 1998 Assembly elections in Gujarat, Modi favoured supporters of another BJP leader, Keshubhai Patel, over those loyal to Vaghela, in an attempt to put an end to the factional divisions within the party. His strategies were credited as being key to the BJP winning an overall majority in the 1998 elections. As a result, Modi was promoted to the post of general secretary (Organisation) of the BJP in May 1998.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Chief Minister of Gujarat

In 2001, Keshubhai Patel’s health was failing, and the BJP had lost seats in the by-elections. Allegations of abuse of power, corruption and poor administration were being made, and Patel’s standing had been damaged by his administration’s handling of the Bhuj Earthquake of 2001. As a result, the BJP’s national leadership sought a new candidate for the office of chief minister, and Modi, who had aired his misgivings about Patel’s administration, was chosen as a replacement. L. K. Advani, a senior leader of the BJP, did not want to ostracise Patel and was worried about Modi’s lack of experience in governance. Modi declined an offer to be Patel’s deputy chief minister, informing Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he was “going to be fully responsible for Gujarat or not at all”, and on 3 October 2001, Modi was named as the replacement of Patel as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, with the responsibility of preparing the BJP for elections in December 2002. As Chief Minister, Modi’s ideas of governance revolved around privatisation and small government, which stood at odds with what political commentator Aditi Phadnis has described as the anti-privatisation, anti-globalisation position of the RSS.

First term (2001–02)

On 7 October 2001, Modi was administered the oath of office by the Sunder Singh Bhandari, Governor of Gujarat . He then contested election from Rajkot – II assembly constituency in a by-poll and won by defeating Congress’s Ashwin Mehta by 14,728 votes.

Debate on Gujarat’s Development under Modi

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Modi’s government has worked to brand Gujarat as a state of dynamic development, economic growth and prosperity, using the slogan “Vibrant Gujarat”. However, critics have pointed to Gujarat’s relatively poor record on human development, poverty alleviation, nutrition, and education. The state is 13th in India for poverty, 21st for education, 44.7 percent of children under five are underweight and 23 percent are undernourished putting the state in the “alarming” category on the India State Hunger Index. In contrast, officials from the state of Gujarat claim that Gujarat outperformed India as a whole in the rates of improvement of multiple human indicators, such as female education, between 2001 and 2011. Furthermore, they claim that the school drop-out rates declined from 20 percent in 2001 to 2 percent in 2011, and that maternal mortality declined by 32 percent from 2001 to 2011. Additionally, the Indian Supreme Court, in a review of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, identified Gujarat as being one of the few states from which there were no complaints of forcible land acquisition.

Political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot asserts that the development in Gujarat has been limited to the urban middle class, while rural dwellers and lower castes have become increasingly marginalised. He cites the fact that Gujarat ranks 10th among the 21 Indian states in the Human Development Index, which he attributes to the lower development in rural Gujarat. He states that under Modi, the number of families living below the poverty line has increased, and that particularly rural adivasi and dalits have become increasingly marginalised. In July 2013, Economics Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen criticised Narendra Modi’s governance record and said he did not approve of it, saying that under Modi’s administration, Gujarat’s “record in education and healthcare is pretty bad”. However, economists Arvind Panagariya and Jagdish Bhagwati state that Gujarat’s social indicator improved from a much lower baseline than other Indian states. They state that Gujarat’s performance in raising literacy rates has been superior to other states in India, and the “rapid” improvement of health indicators in Gujarat as evidence that “its progress has not been poor by any means.”

Awards and recognitions

  • Gujarat Ratna by Shri Poona Gujarati Bandhu Samaj at Ganesh Kala Krida Manch on celebration of centenary year.
  • E-Ratna award by the Computer Society of India.
  • Best Chief Minister – In a nationwide survey conducted in 2007 by India Today magazine, Narendra Modi was declared the Best Chief Minister in the country.
  • Asian Winner of the FDi Personality of the Year award for 2009 by FDi magazine.
  • In March 2012, Modi appeared on the cover of the Asian edition of Time, one of India’s few politicians to have done so.
  • Modi was featured in Time’s 2014 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.
  • Modi has become the most followed Asian leader on Twitter.
  • In 2014, he was ranked as the 15th most powerful person in the world by Forbes.
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  • […] war in 1971, Modi became a full-time Pracharak (Campaigner) for the RSS. In 1978, he became RSS Sambhaag Pracharak (regional organizer) and received degree in Political Science after a distance […]

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