Narendra Damodardas Modi ( born 17 September 1950) is the current Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat. He came to national prominence with his controversial handling of the 2002 Godhra riots, where he is alleged to have facilitated the massacre of Muslims by rioters, according to recent eyewitness testimony filed in the Supreme Court. He has been barred from entering the US, and is currently under investigation.
Born in a middle class family in Vadnagar, a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh since childhood, and an active politician since early in life having a masters degree in political science. In 1998, he was chosen by L K Advani to direct the election campaign in Gujarat as well as Himachal Pradesh. His aggressive style was successful to unite between Vaghela's RJP and Congress and the campaign culminated in a victory leading to Keshubhai becoming the chief minister in March, 1998. Due to his successful direction of campaign in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Modi, who was working at national level then, was promoted to become general secretary soon after. He became Gujarat's Chief Minister in October 2001, promoted to the office at a time when his predecessor Keshubhai Patel had resigned, following the defeat of BJP in the by-elections.
His tenure as chief minister of Gujarat began on 7 October 2001, and he is now the longest serving Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat. In July 2007 he became the longest serving Chief Minister in Gujarat's history when he had been in power for 2063 days continuously. He was elected again for a third term on 23 December 2007 with an emphatic win in the state elections, which he had cast as a "referendum on his rule".
Modi was born in a middle class family in Vadnagar in Mehsana district of what was then Bombay State, India. During the Indo-Pak war in the mid sixties, even as a young boy, he volunteered to serve the soldiers in transit at railway stations. In 1967, he served the flood affected people of Gujarat. As a young man, he joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a student organization and was involved in the anti-corruption Nav Nirmāṇ ("Reconstruction") Movement. After working as a full time organizer for the organization, he was later nominated as its representative in the Bharatiya Janata Party. He started with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),a socio-cultural organization with a focus on social and cultural development of India.
Modi completed his schooling in Vadnagar. He holds the distinction of being a well-educated politician, having earned a masters graduate degree in Political Science from Gujarat University. He is known for being a poet and has published few poetry books.
Early activism and politics
Narendra Modi (left) with Nitish Kumar, Bihar chief minister, at a BJP rally
During his tenure with the RSS, Modi played several important roles on various occasions including the 1974 anti-corruption agitation and the harrowing 19-month (June 1975 to January 1977) long Emergency,declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, when the fundamental rights of Indian citizens were strangled. Modi kept the spirit of democracy alive by going underground for the entire period and fighting a spirited battle against the fascist ways of the then central government. Modi was a Pracharak in the RSS during his university years.
He entered mainstream politics in 1987 by joining the BJP. Just within a year, he was elevated to the level of General Secretary of the Gujarat unit. By that time he had already acquired a reputation for being a highly efficient organizer. He took up the challenging task of energizing the party cadres in right earnest. In partnership with Shankarsingh Vaghela, Modi set about creating a strong cadre base in Gujarat. In the initial period, Shankarsingh Vaghela was seen as a mass leader, while Modi was recognised as a master strategist.
The party started gaining political mileage and formed a coalition government at the centre in April 1990. This partnership fell apart within a few months, but the BJP came to power with a two-thirds majority on its own in Gujarat in 1995. Since then, the BJP has been governing Gujarat.
Between 1988 and 1995, Modi was recognized as a master strategist who had successfully gained the necessary groundwork for making the Gujarat BJP the ruling party of the state.
Narendra Modi with people during Rakshabandhan
During this period, Modi was entrusted with the responsibility of organizing two crucial national events, the Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra (a political rally through India on a converted Toyota van) of L.K. Advani and a similar march from Kanyakumari (the southernmost part of India) to Kashmir in the North. The ascent of the BJP to power at New Delhi in 1998 has been attributed to these two highly successful events, substantially handled by Modi. After the exit of Shankarsingh Vaghela from the BJP, Keshubhai Patel was made Chief Minister while Narendra Modi was sent to delhi as a General Secretary of the Party. This was allegedly done at the behest of Keshubhai to keep Modi from stirring trouble.
In 1995, Modi was appointed the National Secretary of the party and given the charge of five major states in India – a rare distinction for a young leader. In 1998, he was promoted as the General Secretary (Organization), a post he held until October 2001. In 2001, Narendra Modi was chosen by the party to be the Chief Minister of Gujarat after the removal of chief minister Keshubhai Patel in a backroom coup.
During his stint at the national level, Modi was given the responsibility to oversee the affairs of several state level units, including the sensitive and crucial state of Jammu and Kashmir and the equally sensitive north-eastern states. He was responsible for revamping the party organization in several states. While working at the national level, Modi emerged as an important spokesman for the party and played a key role on several important occasions.
Tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat
Narendra Modi with Lal Krishna Advani and India Inc Leaders during VGGIS 2003
In October 2001, he was called upon by the party to lead the Government in Gujarat. When the Modi government was sworn in on 7 October 2001, the economy of Gujarat was reeling under the adverse effects of several natural calamities, including a massive earthquake in January 2001. However Modi, a master strategist, who was enriched by national and international exposure and experience, decided to take the bull by its horns.
He is believed to be a protégé of Lal Krishna Advani, who is a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party himself. Advani has praised Modi on numerous occasions, referring to him as "a leader who, after being subjected to a malicious and prolonged campaign of vilification, has been able to impress even his critics with his determination, single-minded focus, integrity and a wide array of achievements in a relatively short time."
Development of Gujarat
Modi took charge of Gujarat when its economy was shrinking and the domestic growth was stagnant. Faced with massive economic losses, he re-organised the government's administrative structure and embarked upon a massive cost-cutting exercise. As a result of his elaborate efforts, Gujarat registered a GDP growth rate of over 10% during his first tenure. This was the highest growth rate among all the Indian states.
As a Chief Minister, Modi concretely put to practice his envisaged Gujarat by means of various yojana. This includes Panchamrut Yojana, a five-pronged strategy for an integrated development of the state, Sujalam Sufalam, a scheme to create a grid of water resources in Gujarat in an innovative step towards water conservation and its appropriate utilization.
- Krishi Mahotsav – agricultural research labs for the land
- Chiranjeevi Yojana – to reduce infant mortality rate
- Matru Vandana – providing preventive and curative services under the Reproductive and Child Health Programme
- Beti Bachao – campaign to protect baby girls to improve sex ratio
- Jyotigram Yojana – to electrify every village
- Karmayogi Abhiyan – to educate and train government employee
- Kanya Kelavani Yojana – to encourage the education of girls
- Balbhog Yojana – for midday meal for students
Also, there are plans to connect each rural area in Gujrat with the Broadband connection.
Main article: 2001 Gujarat Earthquake
The biggest challenge which he had to face, when he took over as the Chief Minister, was the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the areas affected by the massive Gujarat Earthquake of January 2001. Bhuj was a city of rubble and thousands of people were living in temporary shelters without any basic infrastructure. In this critical situation, Modi is credited with starting immediate work to re-organize and stimulate the local economy. For Narendra Modi's outstanding contribution for disaster management and rehabilitation, on 16-10-2003 Gujarat govt got UN Sasakawa Certificate of Merit for outstanding work in the field of disaster management and risk reduction.Political fallout
As an aftermath of the riots, 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. Even Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP), allies of the BJP, asked for Modi's resignation. Modi submitted his resignation to the Governor and recommended the dissolution of the 10th Gujarat Legislative Assembly. In the following state re-elections the BJP, led by Modi, won 127 seats in the 182-member assembly.
The United States revoked a visa for Modi the following year. He was cited for responsibility for "severe violations" of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
In April 2009, India's Supreme Court appointed a special team of investigators to look into the role Modi had played in the alleged anti-Muslim conspiracy. The team was appointed in response to the complaint of Jakia Jafri, the widow of ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was murdered in the riots. In December 2010, a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) in its report to the Supreme Court seeking answers pertaining to the Ehsan Jafri case, submitted that they had found no evidence against Narendra Modi.
However in February 2011, the Times of India reported that a confidential report from the SIT indicted Modi on several counts of alleged complicity in the Gujarat riots of 2002. Other sources have noted that the SIT report does not indict Modi for the riots due to lack of evidence. The Indian Express too said the report did not find any Modi involvement in the violence, though it did accuse him of watering down the seriousness of the situation. According to the Hindu, the report not only found that Modi tried to water down the seriousness of the situation, but Modi also implicitly justified the killings of Muslims, and failed to condemn the attacks on them. The Bharatiya Janata Party demanded an investigation into the publication of the report, claiming it politically motivated by the Indian National Congress-dominated government.
Modi's 2007 election campaign was marked with some passionate speeches reflecting his vision for Gujarat and his aggressive leadership. One such speech was given at Magrol in response of Sonia Gandhi's speech calling him a "merchant of death", and referred to Sohrabuddin's killing. For this speech the Election Commission of India, a constitutional body governing election proceedings in India, cautioned Modi as it considered it as indulging in an activity which may aggravate existing differences between different communities.
Allegations and Controversies
Allegations for instigating Gujarat violence
Main articles: 2002 Gujarat violence and Godhra Train Burning
Narendra Modi's 2002 campaign exploited . According to the Economist, his audiences considered Muslims as "scheming" in their midst. According to the Center for Social Justice, Modi cast Muslims as "the villains".
In February 2002, a train was burned at Godhra incident in which 58 Hindu pilgrim Kar Sevaks were burnt alive in a conspiracy. Violence immediately broke out across the state claiming around 1,000 lives. Estimates by human rights groups and NGOs place the figure higher to around 2,000. The official estimate stated that 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, 223 people were reported missing and 2,500 were injured. According to the Economist, the violence was organized by the supports of Modi's BJP. A Hindu nationalist said to Tehelka that Modi given the mobs three days to carry out the attacks, during which they wouldn't be stopped by the police. The Supreme Court of India later compared Modi to Nero (a Roman emperor who allowed his city to be burned), viewing that he "looked elsewhere" while innocents were killed.
Gordhan Zadaphia, former junior home minister, has accused Gujarat CM Narendra Modi of playing an active role in 2002 riots. He further states that it was Modi who kept in touch with senior police officials and bureaucrats during rioting. The former minister alleged that he was sidelined by Modi and was not called for official meetings which were conducted by Modi during the riots.
On April 2011, Sanjiv Bhatt, a 1988 batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer, filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court against Narendra Modi for wanting “Muslims to be taught a lesson” for “the burning of kar sevaks at Godhra” in 2002. Bhatt also accused the Government of Gujarat of trying to instil fear among witnesses of 2002 communal riots.
US visa revoked for non-entry
In 2005, on findings by the National Human Rights Commission that his state administration "failed" to control "persistent violations of rights", the United States Government revoked Narendra Modi's diplomatic visa for his entry to the US in exercise of its powers under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that conferred discretionary powers and revoking Modi's existing Tourist/Business visa in exercise of powers under section 212(a)(2)(a) of the same Act.
Views and Opinions
Modi's position on terrorism
On 18 July 2006 Modi delivered a speech criticizing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "for his reluctance to revive anti-terror legislations" like the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He asked the Centre to empower states to invoke tougher laws in the wake of the blasts in Mumbai. Quoting Modi:
||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.
Narendra Modi has frequently commented that if the BJP came to power at the Centre, they will honor the 2004 Supreme Court judgement to hang Afzal Guru. Afzal was convicted of terrorism in the 2001 Indian Parliament attack in 2004 by the Supreme Court of India and is in Tihar Jail.
During the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, on Thursday 27 November, Narendra Modi held a meeting to discuss waterfront security along the coastline. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was decided that a number of steps be taken to improve security:
Support from business interests
- Increase the number of police stations along the coast to 50 (from 10)
- Increase the number of police to 1500 from 250
- 30 modern high-speed surveillance boats.
At the "Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit" (VGGIS), Reliance ADAG chairman Anil Ambani called him "the next leader of India” and Bharti Airtel chief Sunil Mittal was quoted as saying “if there is a CEO who can lead this country, it is Narendra Modi”.
2009 Lok Sabha elections
Although the BJP narrowly managed to win majority of the seats in Gujarat, the loss of the Rajkot seat, after almost 20 years of control, was unexpected. Prominent politicians like Sharad Yadav commented that the BJP's projection of Modi as a future Prime Minister affected its performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Furthermore BJP criticism of Modi worries Gujarat leaders.
Awards and recognitions
- 30 January 2006 – In a nationwide survey conducted by India Today, Narendra Modi was declared the Best Chief Minister of the country.
- 5 February 2007 – Adjudged the best CM for the third time in the nationwide survey conducted by India Today – ORG Marg, a unique achievement for any CM during a 5-year tenure.
- 25 August 2009 – Chosen as The Asian Winner of the fDi Personality of the Year Awards for 2009 by fDi Magazine. The award was however withdrawn and awarded to the Gujarat state instead.