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Narendra Modi Biography
Narendra Damodardas Modi born 17th September, 1950 is the 15th Prime Minister of India, representing the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP ).
Modi was a key strategist for the BJP in the successful 1995 and 1998 Gujarat state election campaigns. He first became chief minister of Gujarat in October 2001, being promoted to the office upon the resignation of his predecessor, Keshubhai Patel, following the defeat of BJP in by – elections. In July 2007, he became the longest – serving Chief Minister in Gujarat’s history when he had been in power for 2,063 days continuously. He is currently into his fourth consecutive term as Chief Minister.
Modi is a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS ) and is described as a Hindu nationalist by scholars and himself. Modi is a controversial figure both within India and internationally. While his administration has been criticised for the incidents surrounding the 2002 Gujarat violence, he has also been praised for his economic policies which are credited with creating the environment for the high economic growth in Gujarat.
Early life and education
Modi was born on 17 September 1950 to a family of grocers in Vadnagar in Mehsana district of what was then Bombay State ( present – day Gujarat ), India. He was the third of six children born to Damodardas Mulchand Modi and his wife, Heeraben. While a teenager, Modi ran a tea stall with his brother around a bus terminus. He completed his schooling in Vadnagar, where a teacher described him as being an average student but a keen debater.
He began work in the staff canteen of Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation ( GSRTC ), where he stayed till he became a full–time pracharak ( propagator ) of the RSS. After Modi had received some RSS training in Nagpur, which was a prerequisite for taking up an official position in the Sangh Parivar, he was given charge of Sangh’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad ( ABVP ), in Gujarat. Modi organised agitations and covert distribution of Sangh’s pamphlets during the Emergency. During his years in the RSS, Modi came in touch with Vasant Gajendragadkar and Nathalal Jaghda, leaders of the Jan Sangh, who later founded the BJP’s Gujarat state unit. Modi remained a pracharak in the RSS while he completed his Master’s degree in political science from Gujarat University.
Early political career
The RSS seconded Modi to the BJP in 1987. While Shankarsingh Vaghela and Keshubhai Patel were the established names in the BJP, Modi rose to prominence after organising Murli Manohar Joshi’s Ekta yatra ( journey for unity ). His electoral strategy was central to BJP’s victory in the 1995 state elections.
Modi became the General 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. Vaghela, who had threatened to break away from BJP in 1995, defected from the BJP after he lost the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. In 1998, Modi was promoted to the post of National Secretary of the BJP. While selecting candidates for the 1998 state elections in Gujarat, Modi sidelined people who were loyal to Vaghela and rewarded those who favoured Patel, thus ending factional divisions within the party. His strategies were key to winning those elections.
Personality and image
Modi is a vegetarian. He is known for leading a frugal lifestyle and has a personal staff of three. He is known to be a workaholic and an introvert. He also writes poems in Gujarati. He is a crowd – puller as a speaker. He wears “business suits to business meetings, instead of homespun tunics. He still lampoons the urban, English – speaking elite, but he is also honing his English skills.” Modi is seen as a “protector” by his supporters. Modi has been labelled by the media and some articles in peer reviewed journals as a controversial, polarising, and divisive figure.
Chief Minister of Gujarat
First Term ( 2001 – 2002 )
Patel’s failing health, along with allegations of abuse of power, corruption and poor administration, as well as a loss of BJP seats in by – elections and the effects of the devastating Bhuj Earthquake of 2001, which his administration struggled to handle, prompted the BJP’s national leadership to seek a new candidate for the office of chief minister. Modi, who had aired his misgivings about Patel’s administration, was chosen as a replacement. L. K. Advani, a senior leader of the BJP, however, did not want to ostracise Patel and was worried about Modi’s lack of experience in governance. It was suggested that Modi should be made the deputy chief minister in a government led by Patel. Modi informed Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he was “going to be fully responsible for Gujarat or not at all” and declined the proposal. On 7 October 2001, Modi was appointed the Chief Minister of Gujarat and was assigned responsibility to prepare 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 Aditi Phadnis has described as the “anti–privatisation, anti–globalisation position” of the RSS.
2002 Gujarat violence
In 2002, there was widespread Anti – Muslim violence throughout Gujarat after reports that a crowd of Muslims had attacked a train carrying mostly Hindu Pilgrims and set it on fire near Godhra railway station burning alive many of the paasengers. The Gujarat administration was accused by the opposition and sections of the media of taking insufficient action against the violence, and even condoning it in some cases. The Modi government had imposed curfews, issued shoot – at – sight orders and called for the army to prevent the violence from worsening but the combined strength of the army and state police proved insufficient. In April 2009, the Supreme Court of India appointed a Special Investigation Team ( SIT ) to inquire into the Gujarat government and Narendra Modi’s role in the incidents of communal violence. The SIT reported to the court in December 2010 submitting that they did not find any incriminating evidence against Modi of willfully allowing communal violence in the state.
Modi’s decision to move the corpses of the kar sevaks who had been burned to death in Godhra to Ahmedabad had been criticised for inflaming the violence. However, the SIT found his decision to be justified.
In April 2012, the SIT absolved Modi of any involvement in the Gulbarg Society massacre that occurred in 2002. On 7th May, 2012, the Supreme Court – appointed amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, observed that Modi could be prosecuted for promoting enmity among different groups during the 2002 Gujarat violence. His main contention was that the evidence should be examined by a court of law because the SIT was required to investigate but not to judge. The amicus report has been criticised by the Special Investigation Team for relying heavily on the testimony of Sanjiv Bhatt. In July 2013, Zakia Jaffri, widow of Ehsan Jafri, alleged that the SIT was suppressing evidence.
In the aftermath of the violence, there were calls for Modi to resign from his position as chief minister of Gujarat. The opposition parties stalled the national parliament over the issue. Both the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam ( DMK ) and the Telugu Desam Party ( TDP ), allies of the BJP, also asked for Modi’s resignation, as did Jayalalithaa, the then – Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam ( AIADMK ). Modi submitted his resignation and the state Assembly was dissolved. In the resultant elections the BJP, led by Modi, won 127 seats in the 182 – member assembly. Modi used extreme anti – Muslim rhetoric during the campaign.
Second term ( 2002–2007 )
During his second term, Modi’s emphasis shifted from Hindutva to the economic development of Gujarat. Modi’s decisions curtailed the influence of organizations of the Sangh Parivar such as the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh ( BKS ) and Vishva Hindu Parishad ( VHP ), which had become entrenched in Gujarat after the decline of Ahmedabad’s textile industry. Modi dropped Gordhan Zadaphia, an ally of his former Sangh co–worker and VHP state chief Praveen Togadia, from the cabinet ministry. When BKS launched a farmers’ agitation, Modi ordered their eviction from houses provided by the state government. Modi’s decision to demolish 200 illegal temples in Gandhinagar deepened the rift with VHP. Various organisations of the Sangh were no longer consulted or apprised of Modi’s administrative decisions prior to enactment.
Between 2002–2007, Gujarat emerged as an attractive investment destination. Aditi Phadnis, author of Political Profiles of Cabals & Kings and columnist in the Business Standard, writes that “there was sufficient anecdotal evidence pointing to the fact that corruption had gone down significantly in the state… if there was to be any corruption, Modi had to know about it”. Modi instituted financial and technology parks in the state. During the 2007 Vibrant Gujarat summit, real estate investment deals worth INR6.6 trillion ( short scale ) ( INR6600 billion ) were signed in Gujarat. In 2003, when Narendra Modi was asked about the conflict of his dreams for Gujarat’s future with international criticism of his past activities, Modi said, Yet, no one has asked this question to the USA after 9/11. Delhi is developing fast – no one has asked this question to Delhi after 1984. If it does not matter to Delhi and USA, why should it matter to Gujarat?
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Prime Minister of India, who had asked Modi not to discriminate between citizens in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat violence and had pushed for his resignation as Chief Minister of Gujarat, distanced himself from Modi and reached out to North Indian Muslims before the 2004 elections to the Lok Sabha. After the elections, Vajpayee held the violence in Gujarat as one of the reasons for BJP’s electoral defeat and acknowledged that not removing Modi immediately after the Gujarat violence was a mistake. Modi had attempted to equate the Gujarat violence with the events of 9/11 in the USA and responded to a newspaper’s criticism that compared him to Hitler, Pol Pot and Slobodan Milosovic by saying that “I have not read and I would not like to read [the criticism]. But thank you people for spending time on me.”
Terrorism and elections in 2007–2008
In the lead up to assembly and general elections in 2007–2008, the BJP stepped up its rhetoric on terrorism. On 18th July 2006, Modi criticised the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, “… for his reluctance to revive anti – terror legislations” such as the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act. He asked the national government to allow states to invoke tougher laws in the wake of the 2006 blasts in Mumbai. Modi said that:
Terrorism is worse than a war. A terrorist has no rules. A terrorist decides when, how, where and whom to kill. India has lost more people in terror attacks than in its wars.
Around this time Modi frequently demanded the execution of Afzal Guru, a collaborator of the Pakistani jihadists who had been convicted of terrorism for his involvement in the 2001 Indian Parliament attack. Modi had completed 2,063 consecutive days as chief minister of Gujarat in July 2007, making him the longest – serving holder of that post. The BJP won the 2007 election, gaining 122 of the 182 seats in the state assembly, and Modi continued in office as chief minister.
As a consequence of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Modi held a meeting to discuss security of Gujarat’s 1,600 km ( 990 mi ) long coastline which resulted in the central government authorising construction of 30 high–speed surveillance boats.
Third term ( 2007–2012 )
Gujarat is a semi – arid state and, according to Tushaar Shah, was “… never known for agrarian dynamism” but in recent years has improved its agricultural output substantially, in large part due to projects relating to improvement of groundwater supplies in Saurashtra, Kachchh and the north, as well as efforts to increase the use of micro – irrigation and to provide more efficient power supply to farms. Public irrigation measures in the central and southern areas, such as the Sardar Sarovar Project, have not been so successful in achieving their aims.
Successive BJP governments under Patel and Modi supported NGOs and communities in the creation of infrastructure projects for conservation of groundwater. By December 2008, 500,000 structures had been constructed, of which 113,738 were check dams. While most check dams remained empty during the pre – monsoon season, they helped recharge the aquifers that lie beneath them. 60 of the 112 Tehsils which were found to have over–exploited the groundwater table in 2004 had regained their normal groundwater level by 2010 and Gujarat had managed to increase its groundwater levels at a time when they were falling in all other Indian states. As a result, production of genetically – modified Bt cotton, which could now be irrigated using tube wells, increased to become the largest in India. The boom in cotton production and utilization of semi–arid land saw the agriculture growth rate of Gujarat increase to 9.6% in the period 2001–2007. For the decade 2001–2010, Gujarat recorded a Compound annual growth rate of 10.97%, the highest among all Indian states.
The system of supplying power to rural areas has been changed radically and has had a greater impact on agriculture than the irrigation works. While states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu provided free electricity to farms, and most other states provided subsidised power, the Gujarat government between 2003–2006 reacted to concerns that such measures result in waste of the power supplied and of groundwater itself with the Jyotigram Yojana scheme, based on ideas developed by the International Water Management Institute. Agricultural supplies were rewired to separate then from other rural supplies and then the electricity used by farms was rationed to fit with scheduled demand for irrigation and consequently to reduce the amount of subsidy being paid. The farmers objected to this at first but came to realise that the outcome was that they were receiving a supply that suffered less from interruption, was of a more consistent voltage and was available when they most needed it for irrigation purposes. Other states have since begun to adopt similar, although not identical, strategies.
Fourth term ( 2012–present )
In the 2012 Gujarat legislative assembly elections, Modi won from the constituency of Maninagar with a majority of 86,373 votes over Sanjiv Bhatt’s wife, Shweta, who was contesting for the Indian National Congress. The BJP as a whole won 115 of the 182 seats; it has formed the government in Gujarat since 1995 and has had an absolute majority throughout Modi’s time in office.
Later in the by – elections for six seats, the BJP won all the seats in Gujarat which consisted of four assembly seats and 2 Lok Sabha seats. Interestingly, BJP won all these seats although Modi never campaigned for its candidates and all the seats were held by the Congress prior to the by – elections. This brought up the number of seats held by the BJP in the state assembly to 119.
Role in central politics
In March 2013, Modi was appointed as member of the BJP Parliamentary Board, its highest decision – making body, and also as a Chairman of the party’s Central Election Campaign Committee. Modi was selected to head the poll campaign for 2014 parliamentary election, at the national level executive meeting of BJP on 10th June, 2012. The party’s senior leader and founding member L.K. Advani resigned from all his posts at the party following the selection, protesting against leaders who were “concerned with their personal agendas”; the resignation was described by The Times of India as “a protest against Narendra Modi’s elevation as the chairman of the party’s election committee”. However, Advani withdrew his resignation the next day at the urging of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Possible prime – minister
In three opinion polls conducted by news agencies and magazines, Narendra Modi was the preferred choice among Indians for the post as Prime Minister in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. A C – Voter poll suggested that by projecting Modi as the Prime Minister candidate, the National Democratic Alliance ( NDA ) could gain a five percent increase in the vote share; it said that projecting Modi could increase NDA’s seats from 179 to 220, which is 52 short of majority. Commenting on the polls, Political scientist Ashutosh Varshney argued that a BJP Prime Minister was unlikely unless they were able to form broad coalitions with other parties, which so far they have not been able to do. In an interview, Nobel Prize laureate economist Amartya Sen, said that he did not want Modi as a Prime Minister because he had not done enough to make minorities feel safe, and also noted that under Modi, Gujarat’s record in health and education provision has been “pretty bad”. However, economists Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya stated “We are impressed by Modi’s economics.” Spiritual leaders like Ramdev and Morari Bapu have supported Modi’s Prime Ministerial candidacy.
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