Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


The secret behind Modi’s poll hat-trick


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi speaks during an election campaign rally in Balasinor, about 90 km (56 miles) east of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. — Reuters (File Photo)

Narendra Damodardas Modi, aged 62, is a tech-savvy Indian politician. His website is indicative of the fact that the leader with hawkish image across India and abroad cares for his Public Relations (PR) – both online as well as offline. His blog tells us that he is also concerned about his portrayal in the media. Many loathe him for his alleged role in 2002 Gujarat pogrom, which resulted in the killings of more than 1,000 Muslims, but his followers in the western Indian state of Gujarat love him to the hilt; they vote for him, and elect him again and again. Modi, who achieved a resounding victory in the latest Assembly Election 2012, will be sworn in as Gujarat Chief Minister (CM) for yet another term on December 26. His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has won Gujarat elections for the fifth consecutive time.

What is behind Modi’s hat-trick of election wins (2002, 2007 and 2012): ‘communal’ googly or ‘development’ mantra? ‘Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him!’

“I have always stated that the Gujarat elections will be remembered as an election that will bring a paradigm shift in electioneering across India. By placing the development agenda above everything and by comprehensively rejecting the partisan agenda of casteism, vote-bank politics as well as divide and rule, the people of Gujarat have created a historic example in the eyes of the entire nation. Today Gujarat stands Ekmat (united) with the message that it is politics of development and good governance that triumphs!,” Modi wrote in a blog soon after his victory.

The Congress leader Sonia Gandhi once referred to this man as the “merchant of death” while many of his detractors have called him the “mass murderer”, but the Gujarati voters have chosen him as their leader for yet another five-year term. Overall it is the fourth time that Narendra Modi will be the CM (2001, 2002, 2007, 2012), but in terms of the electoral wins it is his hat-trick.

Modi addressed a massive public rally at Ahmedabad immediately after the results were out. The BJP leader thanked 60 million Gujaratis. He expressed gratitude to the people who voted for him and also those who didn’t. “My family is six crore Gujaratis,” he said. “Na Rukna Hai, Na Thakna Hai / Sirf Aapke Sapno Ko Poora Karna Hai (No stopping, no fatigue / Only have to make your dreams come true…,)” Modi further said.

Modi is now eying a bigger role at the federal level. Some of his like-minded hardliners such as the Shiv Sena’s executive president, Uddhav Thackeray from Mumbai, Maharashtra are already making claims that Modi is “knocking on the doors of Delhi”. In an editorial in the party mouthpiece ‘Saamna’, U Thackeray wrote: “Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and other top Congress leaders called Modi all kinds of names. Even the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s premier intelligence agency) was used to contain Modi. All NGOs painted Modi as a villain at the international level, but it was all in vain.”

But is Modi really a Prime Minister material?

Achyut Yagnik — a leading sociologist based in Ahmedabad— doesn’t think so. “Modi is not a statesman. He is an autocrat. And in a country like India divisive politics can’t work beyond a point,” Mr. Yagnik told

The Hindu nationalist BJP is finding itself at the crossroads. Despite Modi’s immense popularity in Gujarat, the BJP is sounding cautious at this point in time to make a call on the party’s prime ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian Parliament) elections. Senior BJP leader and eminent lawyer, Arun Jaitley told a private Indian news channel Times Now that his party will decide about the prime ministerial candidate at an appropriate time.

The idea of promoting Modi — widely alleged to be the main architect behind the infamous anti-Muslim riots in 2002 — as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate is fraught with many dangers. Some political pundits believe this idea is a “recipe for disaster”, because the Congress could then easily launch a scathing attack on the “secular claims” of the right wing BJP.

Not that the Congress has an impressive record in preventing riots. The 1984 Sikh Genocide was a pogrom directed against the minority Sikh community as a well-orchestrated criminal response to the assassination of Indra Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India. She was killed by her Sikh body guards. Moderate estimates put the figure of those killed (All Sikhs) in sponsored violence with clear support from the police and authorities, as established by the opinion expressed by India’s leading intelligence agency CBI, to at least 3,000. After Indra’s killing, her son Rajiv Gandhi took over as India’s Prime Minister. When asked about the anti-Sikh riots in reaction to his mother’s death, Rajiv said on record: “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” The pogrom is also remembered as Operation Blue Star.

There are three hurdles, according to Yagnik, which Modi has to cross. “Senior leaders like Sushma Swaraj and others in the BJP pose serious challenge to Modi’s elevation at the federal level, the hardline Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) is not pleased with him, and many leaders in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will not like to see Modi as their prime ministerial candidate,” Yagnik argues.

The fact remains that Modi’s brand of politics has worked wonders in the Hindu majority state of Gujarat.

“We are marching ahead with the mantra of “Vikas, Vishvas and Vijay (‘Development, Trust and Triumph’). Our vision has been, is and will remain all-round growth to create a Bhavya and Divya Gujarat,” claims the maverick politician on his website.

Asaduddin Owaisi— 43-year old Muslim parliamentarian from South Indian city of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh — doesn’t concur with the view of Modi being credited with the soaring economic growth in Gujarat. “What development are we talking about? Malnutrition of children? Economic and social backwardness of the Muslims? Have the perpetrators of anti-Muslim riots been punished? Has the justice been delivered to the victims? Justice is the real development,” the Muslim politician told over the phone.

Then what makes Modi so successful, I asked Owaisi? “Well, Adolf Hitler too achieved success in Germany; the world witnessed what the man did in the end. In a democratic set-up people have the right to choose,” he argues.

Has Modi put the riots behind him? Have the voters forgotten 2002? Or, the wounds of the past have healed with time, and by the economic prosperity and developmental work which Modi claims credit for?

“The kind of development that Modi is projecting coincides with the aspiration of Gujarati youth for their future. About 60 per cent Gujaratis are below 40 years. Also, the influential urban middle-class is in favour of Modi. The national average of urban middle-class is 0nly 32 per cent but in Gujarat it is 43 per cent, which means advantage Modi. There is a town after every 25 kms in Gujarat, which means less urban-rural divide. Above all, the Muslim communities like Bohras and Memons openly extend their support to Modi,” says Yagnik.

Four separate exit polls commissioned by various private television networks ABP News, Times Now, News 24 and Headlines Today had predicted Modi’s victory and said the BJP was likely to win between 118 and 140  seats. He won 115.

Gujarat Poll Results:

Results in 2002: Out of total number of 182 constituencies in the Legislative Assembly of Gujarat, the BJP under the leadership of Modi won 127 seats. The Indian National Congress (INC) only managed 51 seats while the rest were shared by the Independent candidates and other lesser-known regional parties.

Results in 2007:

Under Modi, the BJP succeeded in maintaining its impressive record in Gujarat and again won 117 assembly seats. The Congress party did slightly better and won 59 seats, eight more than the previous elections.

Results in 2012:

Again Modi-led BJP in Gujarat won 115 assembly seats. The Congress had a better show and won 61 seats, two more than in 2007 and ten more than what it did win in 2002.

What makes brand Modi click in Gujarat?

Mr. Owaisi is critical of the Congress for its ‘lacklustre’ election campaign. “The Congress failed to highlight the social and economic backwardness of the Muslims in Gujarat. The party did not campaign well.”

On this speculation that the BJP-led NDA might be tempted to project Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, Owaisi had this to say: “The country has to decide then. At this juncture it will be premature for us to say or speculate anything about it.”

The Gujarat Chief Minister challenges the Congress with these words: “The more the dirt you throw, the more the Lotus will shine.” Lotus is the official party symbol of the BJP.

Modi’s detractors consider him massively controversial for his fiery speeches and deem his certain actions perilous to the ‘secular fabric’ of India, but his admirers in his home state credit him with the high economic growth under his regime since 2001-02. During the 2007 election campaign, Modi delivered a controversial speech in which he tried to justify the “fake encounter” of Sohrabuddin Sheikh. He was responding to the Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Sonia Gandhi’s speech calling him a “merchant of death”.

Modi’s meteoric rise means he has come to symbolize the BJP in Gujarat and perhaps becoming bigger than the party, which should be a worrying sign for the Hindu nationalist party. But there were few gestures of humility and grace made by Modi after his election win. He visited his fiercest rival Keshubhai Patel, the former Chief Minister of Gujarat, who has been expressing his displeasure on public platforms and fought elections by forming a new Gujarat Parivartan Party. Another former CM Suresh Mehta too has expressed disagreement with Modi, either overtly or symbolically.

“In the name of ‘development’ and to project himself as ‘Vikas Purush’, Chief Minister Modi has handed vast tracts of coastal land and pasture land to big industrial houses. Similarly, water bodies in a number of districts in Saurashtra and Kutch, including the creeks that punctuate the coast, have been taken over by big industries, either legally or surreptitiously. It is common knowledge that pastoralists and fisherfolk have enjoyed traditional rights over such natural resources for their livelihood. They now feel deprived and distressed. Though no organised struggle has taken root, except the farmers' struggle against the Nirma cement plant in coastal Saurashtra, many villages of Kutch and Saurashtra have knocked the doors of the Gujarat High Court for justice. Their cases are pending before the court,” wrote Achyut Yagnik in India’s leading national daily The Hindu few months before the Gujarat elections.

There is no doubt that Modi has claimed a hat-trick of election victories in Gujarat, but is yet to remove the tag of being a hardliner Hindu nationalist, an authoritarian and autocratic ruler, which in the long run should prove enough to limit his influence beyond Gujarat and stall his elevation and prime ministerial candidacy, and above all, spoil his dream of ruling India as PM.

The writer is a professional journalist with international experience. He has worked as editor at Deutsche Welle in Bonn, Germany. Previously, he has also contributed features to the BBC web. Feedback at

DAWN_VIDEO - /1029551/DAWN-RM-1x1

Comments (37) Closed

rich Dec 23, 2012 06:28pm
i hope the author does a research on qwais, before quoring him, i have never seen anyone as communal as owais modi lost 10 seat in patel areas bec of keshav, but hgained made up for it in consituency with sizable muslim population muslim of gujrat are the richest muslim in india the riots of 2002, both hindus as well as muslim dies, and it was started by muslim when the burned the train with hindus inside, mode was involved probaly bec he did not stop the riots immediately
andy (ON, Canada) Dec 23, 2012 05:16pm
Agreed totally. Since independence, we in schools have been fed the greatness of Nehru and the likes of the party which today is the national congress. The history of other greats like Savarkar, tilak, bhagat singh and others has been systematically deleted over the years. Same thing is happening now. All the so called secular parties put their best with the invaluable help from the media, the NGO's and foul mouth petty politicians like this Owaisi (who is known only for his brainless threats to all the Indians) to defeat Modi at least this time. the result is for everyone to see. Congress wins only when the slum dwellers and muslims vote for their candidates en masse, thanks to some small appeasement tactics like clothes and food. but the growing middle class is going away from this congress. Forget about his stature as a national level politician, Owaisi is not even a regional player!
Raul Dec 23, 2012 05:10pm
Question is: Why Muslim Memon's and Bohra's Openly support Modi? Aren't they the most peace loving and progressive component of Gujrati or whole India's Muslims? Food for Thought..... for everyone...
dev Dec 24, 2012 08:29am
If i have to choose between rahul gandhi and narendra modi.its definitely-2 going to be modi...
Sunita Wadiyar Dec 23, 2012 03:26pm
Much better and balanced reporting on Indian issue as compared to that of Noorani who spews biased columns with flair
RISHI KUMAR Dec 23, 2012 02:41pm
first of all i question the writer why has he taken the interview of BRANDED COMMUNAL MAN OWASI OF HYDERABAD!! is he according to writer right man to comment on modi !!owasi only talk about muslims even during assam riot he held camps there only for muslims with that writer has not put figures of hindu killed during Gujarat riot are HINDU ARE ANIMAL THEIR KILLING IS NOT COUNTED AND MUSLIMS HAVE ONLY RIGHT TO LIVE AND EVEN IF ONE MUSLIMS ARE KILLED ITS GREAT THING BUT KILLING OF HINDU IS NORMAL!!PLEASE STOP THIS KIND OF REPORTING !!!BE HUMAN AND RESPECT HUMANITY KILLING IS WRONG !!BUT AT LEAST MEDIA SHOULD NOT BE BIASED AND DONT BRING HERE COMMUNAL PERSON LIKE THIS OWASI WHO BELIEVE ONLY IN HATE POLITICS!!!
kris Dec 23, 2012 04:29pm
Asaduddin Owaisi compares Modi to Hitler. What a comparison? Iran's PM even denies, holocaust took place. Perverts can talk day is a free country. But the fact is Guj riot was an unfortunate mass reaction to Godra carnage. People don't know about Hitler when they talk. Holocaust victims never invaded the country, didn't desecrate their holy sites, didn't loot the wealth, didn't convert their people, never demanded a separate state..lidt goes on. Million were sent to Gas chambers for a decade in a cold blood and hatred. Please stop comparing Modi to Hitler and trvialize Hitler's pogram. At least the writer should know better!
thedailyreporter Dec 24, 2012 01:18pm
The reason Maddy wins is his use of doublespeak - his use of hidden anti-Muslim language that works with polarised Gujarati Hindus.
Sunny Dec 23, 2012 12:58pm
Operation Blue Star was the military operation against Sikh militants in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984 - it does not refer to the anti-Sikh riots later that year in Delhi and elsewhere.
Abhishek Patel Dec 23, 2012 12:53pm
I like to study history...and find it repeating itself...of what happened between Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru after the independence...Sardar Patel despite uniting India was accused and portrayed well after his death as being divisive (when he was actually decisive to ensure Nation's best interest), he was also called non-secular (when he was the fundamental pioneer who united India so we can call ourselves "secular"). When will we learn to recognize AND RESPECT our living legends? Is the public outcry for Modi being PM a mere "perception.
CA Satish Shetty Dec 23, 2012 12:45pm
Modi's success is his hard work,visionery,good administration,good oratory.He does what he promises to the electorates.
Kaly Dec 23, 2012 03:37pm
Mr. Modi is a nonsense politician unlike many in India. He works around 21 hrs in a day and is not a corrupt politicians at all. It is because of him, Gujarat has been developed so well. Since there is no corruption in his state, people are really happy. There is no riot in last 12 years, and anyone who wants to do business are being welcomed. While the rest of India is fighting with corruption, Gujarat is different. You will find nice roads, 24 hrs electricity even in remote villages, all because of visionary work from Modi. The sad part is some people talks about 2002 riots, now people should know why the riot happened. moreover Riot happened in many places, many times under rules of all political parties in India, why to blame Modi. I wish all state in India should have a CM like Modi, many people like to see him as PM of India, if it happens, still will be a strong corrupt free country what we dream for.
Goyal Dec 23, 2012 01:11pm
In this article view of only two person's are included. One is Mr. YagniK (as it was already mentioned that he don't like Modi), and another is Owaisi (I don't want to use any abusive language against him). So basically this article analyses only one side of the coin, and seems have prejudice about Modi. If we analyse the conditions of Muslims in Gujarat, its far better then any other state in whole India, and winning 9 out of 12 Muslim majority seats in Gujarat proves it. One more point should be noted that after 2002, not even single riot happened on Gujarat. People of India know the reality of Owaisi and in Indian media his statements and opinions aren't even considered. Muslims want development of their community, not seats in assembly, which was strategy of Congress for last 50 years. Muslims never saw any development in the rule of Congress, but false appeasement. Another point is that this is the first time in India when elections are happening over the issue of development and not on the basis of religion and cast. In other states of India its not even possible for next 10 years. So please ask real Gujaratis and not Mr. Yagnik or radicals like Owaisi.
naren Dec 23, 2012 01:56pm
Asaduddin Owaisi is a communal leader from Hydrabad. He is pseudo-secular. Why such a dirt leaders are being asked for an opinion on Modi. Modi at least does, what he promises. But you can buy Asaduddin Owaisi for few dollars.
Vikas Dec 23, 2012 01:55pm
If Muslims are killed then BJP is communal. If Sikhs are killed then Khangress is not communal. The problem arises when you ignore the feelings of majority of the people.
Khan Dec 23, 2012 08:44pm
You guys write the history as you like "not a single Hindu or Muslim has been killed in riot under Sandra Modi rule" when Gujrat riots happened and 2000 muslim were butchered was Sonia Gandi the CM of Gujrat? Or Sardar Modi?
Khan Dec 23, 2012 08:49pm
My Sikh neighbours in Canada tell a different story as you tube videos also
Pankaj Patel(USA) Dec 23, 2012 09:12pm
Modi is a phenomenon in Indian politics and it is going to change India's politics in the future for sure.Whole Indian media and most political parties including some in BJP are pitted against him,all are questioning his secular credentials for their own interests and not peoples interest.Most journalists are just laborers of pan and have no thought process or ground realities to support thought process.Gujarat has seen a leader who unite people without cast or religion on the agenda and put progress on the agenda.First time educated middle class have come out in big numbers and have put cast and religious equation on the beck burner.I hope Pakistan gets such an honest leader.We should prefer honesty over hipporcracy. He has delivered what he promised.
chantibabu Dec 24, 2012 12:10am
Owaisi is a criminal and a rowdy in Hyderabad. He is the one to comment on Modi? I dont know if Modi is responsible for killings of muslims but for sure Owaisi is not the one to talk about harmony and ethics.
akhter husain Dec 24, 2012 11:40am
Because they love profit and nothing else.
Reddy Dec 24, 2012 01:06am
You lost every bit of credibility when you talked to Owaisi about Modi. Owaisi is as much communal as Modi, at least Modi is a nationalist unlike Owaisi.
sri1ram Dec 24, 2012 01:30am
Words like "Pogram" can be used fast and loose by the "secular" English Indian media for describing spontaneous mob frenzy however tragic and unfortunate. What can one expect from neighboring newspapers that just pick on those threads. Even after court after courts have exonerated Modi of wrongdoing, the needle of perception and suspicion remains that perfectly work for the Congress party.
MKB Dec 24, 2012 11:28am
Yes, I fully endorse your view.
madhu Dec 24, 2012 02:40am
out of 19 constituency that are muslim majority, BJP won 12!!! when will other Indian Muslims come out of being blind????
NASAH (USA) Dec 24, 2012 02:57am
Just because majority of Gujarat electorate votes for Mr. Modi -- does not necessarily qualify Mr. Modi to become India's Prime minister. Majority of Germans voted for Hitler -- for his economic miracle and a fascist pride in a resurgent post world war II Germany -- and look what Hitler did with the German economic miracle. Mr. Modi is is no exception.
Rajeev Nidumolu Dec 24, 2012 03:36am
I am not aware of any difference between Asaduddin Owaisi and Modi in their approach to divisive communal issues . When did Owaisi became secularist?
sidharth Dec 24, 2012 10:53am
There is not a single congress leader at the center who is as popular as Narendra modi. So if any one deserves to be a prime minister it is modi.It will be a change to see a lower caste guy like modi to be the PM of India.
DS Dec 24, 2012 04:22am
Buddies...he knows how to connect with public. 2002 was really a sad chapter, so were 1984, 1993. In a country like India you can't get hattrick just like that. None of the UPA fellows can match his decisive style of working, oratorial skills etc. He a bachelor,,so no ambitions of hoarding money unlike others.
suresh shenoy Dec 24, 2012 05:25am
Dear Gowhar First of all it is very, very difficult to win elections thrice in a row. Infact many of the political parties & their ministers are thrown out even before their tenure ends,forget winning thrice. About communal violence, Gujarat had a history of communal violence, now these things cannot be cleared in a day,week fortnight or month, let us be honest. I would like to ask the Mr Gowhar,what about the sectarian,communal voilence against Shias, Ahmediyas, Hazaras,Christians which has been going on for decades. More then 4000 Harzara families have applied for Asylum in different parts of the world another 3000 are in pipeline. Can any political leader in Pakistan bring peace,harmony & tolerance just like Mr.Modi. Suresh Shenoy - Bombay
gujarati Dec 24, 2012 05:31am
He is not secular. He used the tool of castism to win the election. I dont think we secular gujaratis like him but non secular gujarat likes him
riz Dec 24, 2012 12:57pm
not for 2014 but yes after that he might be selected at candidate for PM, if he does not falls from grace. Modi should now be careful and watch his moves especially not to further harden the gap with muslims he has created.
Santosh Dec 24, 2012 07:05am
All the 1000 dead were not muslims. 800 odd muslims and 300 odd Hindus were killed in the riots. It is not as you portray that only Hindus were rioting and muslims were getting killed - muslim mobs too were killing Hindus in muslim areas. And how the riots started is history. But since Hindus outnumber Muslims - the death figure was more towards the muslims. And after 2002 - there have been no communal riots in Gujarat. And one more thing I would like to add that the next violent incident reported was this year when a mob of muslims burnt down a police station in Ahmedabad while protesting against the American film against prophet. So that proves that the muslims of India are neither to be pitied upon or are cowered with fear. Thank you.
Samresh Dec 24, 2012 07:15am
Why did you have to quote Asaduddin Owaisi ? How can a man who physically attacked Taslima Nasreen for being sceptical about religion claim to be secular ? He is much more communal than anyone in BJP.
Indian Dec 24, 2012 07:43am
Quoting Asaduddin Owaisi damages the credibility of the article beyond redemption. Owaisi is perhaps the most divisive politician alive in India. And, as results indicate, muslim-dominated areas too have voted for Modi's party. Clearly, even Muslims in Gujarat want to move over the unfortunate riots, but it seems the "moderates" are not allowing them to do so.
sktomer Dec 25, 2012 11:01am
You better write your name as "Congress". Don't dare to tell this is the option of Gujaratis.
honestbuddy Dec 27, 2012 10:46pm
Justice for all - "appeasement" to none.
explore1985 Dec 28, 2012 04:17pm
Instead of "The secret behind Modi