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Remarkable journey of Narendra Modi – a man pilloried and adored

In the beginning, there were doubts whether Modi can equal the charm of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, considered a moderate even by his rivals.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Updated: May 26, 2014 5:25 pm
Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi pays his respects at Rajghat, the memorial of Mahatma GandhI. (Source: AP photo) Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi pays his respects at Rajghat, the memorial of Mahatma GandhI. (Source: AP photo)

It has been a remarkable journey for Narendra Modi to the top during which he has been pilloried by his critics and adored by his supporters who believe he will pull India out of the rut.

“I believe God has chosen me,” Modi had said in the course of his relentless and focused election campaign that has catapulted him to the pinnacle of power.

The 63-year-old BJP leader himself saw a combination of a very strong anti-Congress wave “together with an equally strong wave for BJP and its NDA partners” during the marathon campaign and seized upon these to decimate the UPA.

Dismissing charges of being authoritarian, Modi told PTI during the campaign that he believed in team work and that those who worked with him believed that he was strong-willed and decisive.

He accsued his opponents of resorting to “vague, non-specific and subjective things like saying that I am authoritarian, jingoistic, divisive”. There had never been any serious allegation of corruption, nepotism or incompetence against him, he said.

A rank outsider to the ‘Delhi club’, the Gujarat Chief Minister, steamrolled all opposition within and outside to secure for BJP a majority that no party could get after Rajiv Gandhi’s ‘400 plus’ victory in 1984.

On the victory path, Modi virtually blanked out all others in the party and became its sole face in a long campaign that started last summer after he was made the campaign chief in Goa.

Undeterred by the sulk of veterans like L K Advani and grumblings of some others, the 63-year-old former RSS pracharak mounted an untiring campaign criss-crossing the country helping  BJP record its finest-ever performance in more than three decades of its existence.

There was more sulk when he was anointed the BJP’s prime ministerial face in September but that did not deter him from his mission in getting the BJP-led NDA back to power from where it was dislodged in 2004.

In the beginning, there were doubts whether Modi can equal the charm of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, considered a moderate even by his rivals, in attracting allies.

But the BJP put all its eggs in the Modi basket, a gamble that has paid with Modi attracting more allies pre-poll, including those who had left the NDA blaming him for the 2002 riots.

He may be one of the most riled leaders described variously as divisive, polarising and and a Hindutva-hardliner given the backdrop of the riots that had claimed over 1000 lives, mostly Muslims, in March, 2002 under his watch.

But Modi is seen by his supporters as a “strong leader” who will not play the politics of appeasement of any section.

In the 12 years he had been chief minister in Gujarat, he consciously crafted an image of a man with an alternative vision of governance for a country caught in a policy paralysis in the last few years. With his development as his campaign plank, he made an instant connect with young voters, middle class and those in rural areas yearning for a change.  But occasionally there were hints of polarising voters raking up pet issues of the saffron forces.

A master strategist, Modi has come a long way from selling tea at railway station for his father to emerge as a pan India leader. There are many of his critics who contest his claim of having sold tea.

In a state the sangh parivar called the “Hindutva laboratory”, the chief minister consolidated his image as a hardliner and election after election he delivered results for the party–scoring a hat trick last year in the Assembly polls.

In his attempt to reach out to minorities, especially the Muslims, he consciously shed the hardliner approach and focused on development, including those of the poor in the Muslim community.

He battled all odds to emerge as BJP’s  prime ministerial candidate pipping  Advani among others. But since then he had  run a very clever, spirited and never-before-seen high-tech campaign addressing more than 450 rallies across the

Having been born in a backward ‘Modh Ghanchi’ (oil crusher) community in historical Vadnagar town of Mehasana district years), the rise of Modi is phenomenal. However, his status as a person belonging to backward community itself has
also been contested.

The RSS pracharak, who was loaned to BJP in 1985, remained a backroom party office-bearer and key strategist till he was made Chief Minister of Gujarat to replace Keshubhai Patel in October 2001. Just five months after he took over as chief minister, Modi controversially came into limelight in the wake of 2002 riots triggered after 59 ‘Kar Sewaks’ were killed in a fire in a compartment in Sabarmati Express train incident on February 27, 2002.

(With PTI inputs)

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