Namo:From tea boy to India’s leader

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  • 9 Months ago
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It’s an interesting story of a man who did not achieve this feat without struggle. Narendra Modi had worked his way to the top post of India’s Prime Minister. His rise through the ranks is meteoric, to say the least. As he charts his future course, it would be rewarding to look back at those years when he steadily shaped himself as a national leader.

The idea of struggle was never very distant for Modi. He used to run a tea stall till the time RSS inducted him as a full-time member. With whatever minimal training he received from the party’s associates, he surged ahead and exhibited enough capability to be given the charge of the ABVP (the student wing of RSS). His diligence and dedication towards the party hardly ebbed despite the fact that he was simultaneously pursuing a Master’s degree in Political Science. This ‘average student’ from Vadnagar tutored himself to take greater steps on a national level.

Although there isn’t enough about Modi’s personal life in the public domain, the political discourse sometimes throws up bits of facts and stories. He was born into a middle class family of six in Vadnagar in Mehsana District (then Bombay state) to Damodardas Mulchand Modi and Heeradben Modi. He was bethrothed when quite young, but chose to walk away from the marriage and has remained a bachelor.

Narendra Modi was drawn to politics in his early teens and was a member of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). During the 1960’s India-Pakistan war, even though he was only a young boy, he volunteered to serve soldiers traveling through railway stations. As a youth, he became a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a student body involved in anti-corruption. After having worked full time with them, he was then nominated as its representative in the BJP. Modi was also a campaigner in the RSS during his years in college and took on the task of encouraging the party members. Partnering with Shankersingh Vaghela, Modi began a strong cadre base in Gujarat. Narendra Modi has come from a humble background and is known for his simple lifestyle. He has a reputation of being a workaholic and introvert. Mr. Modi has tried to change his image from that of a Hindu Nationalist politician to that of a sincere administrator.

The party began getting political attention and formed a coalition government in April 1990. After this, the BJP came to power in Gujarat in 1995. During this period, Modi was responsible for the Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra and a similar trek from Kanyakumari in Southern India all the way up to Kashmir in the north.

Modi was appointed chief minister of Gujarat, an industrial heartland, in October 2001. But within months, the state was in crisis: more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in a series of anti-Muslim riots.

Modi was accused of doing little to prevent the violence, and was questioned by police amid claims of complicity, but was never charged.

Nevertheless the international response was sharp: a prolonged international boycott, with the US denying the Hindu nationalist a visa.

In his most recent interview, Modi said that the judiciary had been “vibrant” in dealing with riot cases. However a study by Stanford Law School has criticised the low conviction rate in those cases.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former prime minister, wanted to sack Modi after the riots, but he held on after the party stood behind him.

Indeed, the religious polarisation that followed the 2002 riots actually boosted his electoral prospects.

And it was with the downfall of his mentor, Advani, that Modi took his next step to power. Their friendship soured in 2005 when Advani described the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as “secular” and an “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”.

The Jinnah comment alienated the RSS and forced Advani to resign as the BJP’s president – events which eventually created the space that Modi required.

Modi continued to build his reputation in Gujarat on economic growth, building an efficient business administration and selling the state to the world: in 2009, the Gujarat government hired the US lobbying and public relations firm, APCO Worldwide, to advertise his state as an investment destination.

Since Modi took control, Gujarat has led the nation in GDP growth and accounts for 16 percent of industrial output, despite having five percent of its population. The western state boasts of uninterrupted power supply and the finest road infrastructure in the country.

However, he was criticised for exaggerating the growth, with his policies benefitting the wealthy more than the poor, and favouring a select few corporations.

Nevertheless, his stock within the BJP continued to grow as he projected himself as a man of development, and a staunch advocate of Hindutva ideology.

Modi’s biographer, Mukhopadhyay, describes him as charismatic, an “extremely hard working person, a good administrator but extremely polarising which is in his [Modi’s] political genealogy”.

His rise to the top of the BJP was confirmed when he became the party’s nominee for prime minister – despite the protests of several senior party veterans.

And so, it was with the double whammy of Hindu nationalism and promises of economic nirvana, that the BJP leader mounted his assault on the national elections.

His popularity soared in recent years amid the lackluster performance of the ruling Congress party, which looked clueless in addressing the worsening economic situation in the country.

He focused his speeches on jobs, development, poverty and scams. He complained of “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh, who he warned should “pack their bags” once the BJP came to power.

At an election rally in northeastern state of Assam bordering Bangladesh, Modi alleged that officials in the Congress government were involved in poaching rhinos to make way for settlers.

What kind of India such a polarising personality will create remains to be seen.

William Dalrymple, a historian, wrote in the New Statesman magazine: “India is knowingly taking a terrific gamble on its future, in effect choosing to ignore Modi’s record on civil liberties and human rights in return for putting in place a strong and decisive leader who would be brave enough to make the difficult reforms and provide the firm governance and economic prosperity this country is craving.”

Besides being a revered orator and a prolific writer, he is also a caring son and a man with his brand of humour. Those who have been associated with him for long are of the opinion that the idea of power is exciting to him. Next time you wonder how he could garner so much of national attention, think of this. He underwent a rigorous training in the US on public relations and image management.

 

Modi frequently refers to his P2G2 (Pro-people good governance) formula to substantiate his claims on holistic development. Some observers are of the opinion that Gujarat has been able to improve its agricultural output despite being a semi-arid state. The credit is given to the Gujarat government’s measures to scale up groundwater projects and initiatives to increase the use of micro-irrigation.

India Inc. is almost unanimous in their verdict. They want Narendra Modi as the next PM. Reason? They seek a strong leadership that has a clear road-map and actionable plans ready for execution. Indian business leaders from Ratan Tata to Mukesh Ambani seem to be convinced that for India to come out of its Gross Domestic Paralysis, a visionary and decisive leadership is essential. Empirical evidence suggests that Gujarat has been able to position itself as a lucrative destination for investment. Under his aegis, according to a political commentator, the level of corruption receded and technology parks have seen the light of the day. His iconic call for “Minimum Government and Maximum Governance” has frequently struck the chord with the masses.

When it comes to taking lessons on brand building, Modi says there’s no greater inspiration than Mahatma Gandhi. His eulogies about Gandhi come from the fact that “He spoke of Ahimsa but carried a stick. He never wore a cap but the world wears a Gandhi Topi.” Modi’s careful metamorphosis from a Hindutva party man to a pro-development leader and change maker speaks volumes for his image-building ability. His two-year long escapade into the Himalayas and co-mingling with the yogic sadhus gave him a fair understanding of Hinduism. That partly explains why people listen to him in rapt attention when he talks of ideologies.

Narendra Modi is India’s 15th prime minister. He secured the largest mandate any Indian prime minister has won since 1984 in the country’s mammoth general election in April.Modi was only granted a visa to visit the United States when he was elected leader, as the US government denied one for nine years for his failure to stop communal riots that killed more than 1,000 people – the majority of them were Muslims – when he was chief leader of the state of Gujarat.The prime minister’s stance on women’s rights is unclear. In his first Independence Day address, he said India’s women should be valued more and denounced the ongoing rape crisis. He has championed programmes to boost education programmes for girls and has talked about greater women’s participation in the work force, but there are few women in Modi’s top team. The prime minister and his party have also been criticised for making sexist remarks during public speeches.

He is the most-followed Asian leader on Twitter and is constantly tweeting and checking his Facebook account.

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