As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi’s economic policies were praised, while his administration was also criticised for failing to significantly improve the human development in the state, and for failing to prevent the 2002 Gujarat riots. A Hindu nationalist and member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Modi remains a controversial figure domestically and internationally.
Early life and education
Modi was born on 17 September 1950, to a family of grocers in Vadnagar, Mehsana district, Bombay State (present-day Gujarat).
Modi’s family belonged to the Modh-Ghanchi-Teli (oil-presser) community, which is categorised as an Other Backward Class by the Indian government. Modi was the third of six children born to Damodardas Mulchand (1915–1989) and Heeraben Modi (b. c. 1920). As a child, Modi helped his father sell tea at the Vadnagar railway station, and later ran a tea stall with his brother near a bus terminus.
Early political career, 1975–2001
On 26 June 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India which lasted until 1977. During this period, many of her political opponents were jailed and opposition groups (including the RSS) were banned. As pracharak in-charge of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS, Modi was forced to go underground in Gujarat and frequently traveled in disguise to avoid arrest. He became involved in printing pamphlets opposing the government, sending them to Delhi and organising demonstrations. During this period, Modi wrote a book in Gujarati, Sangharsh ma Gujarat (The Struggles of Gujarat), describing events during the Emergency.
Chief Minister of Gujarat (2001–14)
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 made, and Patel’s standing had been damaged by his administration’s handling of the 2001 Bhuj earthquake. The BJP national leadership sought a new candidate for chief minister, and Modi (who had expressed misgivings about Patel’s administration) was chosen as a replacement. Although senior BJP leader L. K. Advani did not want to ostracise Patel and was concerned about Modi’s lack of experience in government, Modi declined an offer to be Patel’s deputy chief minister and told Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee he was “going to be fully responsible for Gujarat or not at all”.
First term, 2001–02
On 7 October 2001, Modi was administered the oath of office. He then won a 24 February 2002 Rajkot – II[clarification needed] assembly election, defeating Ashwin Mehta of the Indian National Congress (INC) by 14,728 votes.
2002 Gujarat riots
Main article: 2002 Gujarat riots
On 27 February 2002, a train with several hundred passengers, including a large number of Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya after a religious ceremony at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid, was burned near Godhra; about 60 people were killed.[a] In the wake of rumours that the fire was set by Muslim arsonists, anti-Muslim violence spread through Gujarat. Estimates of that death toll ranged from 900 to over 2,000, with several thousand injured. The Modi government imposed a curfew in major cities, issued shoot-at-sight orders and called for the army to prevent the violence from escalating, but human rights organisations, opposition parties and some media accused the Gujarat government of taking insufficient action against the riots (to the point of condoning them). Modi’s decision to move the bodies of the Kar Sevak train victims from Godhra to Ahmedabad was criticised for inflaming the violence.
Second term, 2002–07
After accusations of anti-Muslim rhetoric during the campaign, during Modi’s second term his emphasis shifted from Hindutva to Gujarat’s economic development. He curtailed the influence of Sangh Parivar organisations such as the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), entrenched in the state after the decline of Ahmedabad’s textile industry, and dropped Gordhan Zadafia (an ally of former Sangh co-worker and VHP state chief Praveen Togadia) from his cabinet. When the BKS staged a farmers’ demonstration Modi ordered their eviction from state-provided houses, and his decision to demolish 200 illegal temples in Gandhinagar deepened the rift with the VHP. Sangh organisations were no longer consulted or informed in advance about Modi’s administrative decisions.
Third term, 2007–12
Keshubhai Patel and Modi’s BJP governments supported NGOs and communities in the creation of groundwater-conservation projects; according to Tushaar Shah, Gujarat (a semi-arid state) was ” … never known for agrarian dynamism”. By December 2008 500,000 structures were built, of which 113,738 were check dams. While most check-dam impoundments dried up during the pre-monsoon period, they helped monsoon rains recharge the aquifers beneath them. Sixty of the 112 tehsils which were found to have depleted the water table in 2004 had regained their normal groundwater levels by 2010, and Gujarat increased its groundwater levels when they were falling in all other Indian states. As a result, the state’s production of genetically modified Bt cotton (which could now be irrigated with tube wells) increased to become the largest in India.
Modi speaking at flower-decked podium
Modi addressing graduates at Gujarat National Law University, 2012.
Modi’s government has branded Gujarat as a state of dynamic development, economic growth and prosperity with the slogan, “Vibrant Gujarat”. He has been praised for facilitating ease of doing business and ending bureauratic logjam which made investment in India an olympic feat. Gujarat topped the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings for two consecutive years. of which the first report was blocked by the then UPA government. Narendra Modi-led Gujarat continued to remain the top-ranked Indian state in terms of “economic freedom” – an index that measures governance, growth, citizens’ rights and labour and business regulation among the country’s 20 largest states. However, critics have pointed to its relatively poor record on human development, poverty relief, nutrition and education.
2014 Indian general election campaign
.Modi played a significant role in the BJP’s 2009 general-election campaign.
On 31 March 2013 Modi was appointed to the BJP parliamentary board, the highest decision-making body in the party, and at the party’s 9 June national executive meeting he was appointed chair of the BJP’s central election campaign committee for the 2014 general election. Senior leader and founding member Lal Krishna Advani resigned his party posts after the appointment in protest of leaders who were “concerned with their personal agendas”. His resignation, which was described by The Times of India as “a protest against Narendra Modi’s elevation as the chairman of the party’s election committee”, was withdrawn the following day at the urging of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. In September 2013, the BJP announced that the chief minister would be their candidate for prime minister in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Prime Minister (2014–present)
Modi reading from a paper into a bank of microphones
Modi (far right) being sworn in as Prime Minister, in the presence of President Pranab Mukherjee (far left), 2014.
Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister of India on 26 May 2014 at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He was the first to invite all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation leaders to attend his swearing-in ceremony. His first cabinet consisted of 45 ministers, 25 fewer than the previous UPA government.
In accordance with Ghanchi tradition, Modi’s marriage was arranged by his parents when he was a child. He was engaged at age 13 to Jashodaben Narendrabhai Modi, marrying her when he was 18. They spent little time together and grew apart when Modi began two years of travel, including visits to Hindu ashrams. Reportedly, their marriage was never consummated and he kept it a secret because otherwise he could not have become a ‘pracharak’ in the puritan Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). Although Modi kept his marriage secret for most of his career, he acknowledged his wife when he filed his nomination for a parliamentary seat in the 2014 general elections.
Modi wearing a suit with his name embroidered in the pinstripes.
A vegetarian, Modi has a frugal lifestyle and is a workaholic and introvert. Adept at using social media, he has been since September 2014 the second-most-followed leader in the world (with over 17.9 million followers on Twitter as of February 2016), behind only Barack Obama. Modi’s 31 August 2012 post on Google Hangouts made him the first Indian politician to interact with netizens on live chat.