Narendra Modi is the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He is experienced in governance and has served four times as the chief minister of India’s Gujarat state.
During his tenure as chief minister, Gujarat has seen considerable socio-economic progress and infrastructure development, as a result of which the BJP has decided to field him as the party’s candidate for the country’s top post. Modi, who has also gained much popular support on account of his performance in Gujarat, is expected to lead the NDA to victory in the elections.
Modi was born in Vadsana in Gujarat, where he also received his early education. Later, he went on to obtain a Masters degree in Political Science from Gujarat University.
He began his political career by participating as a student worker in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and underwent rigorous training which enabled him to take up party offices. Soon, he moved on to the BJP where he continued to prove himself as a competent organiser.
Modi went on to become the general secretary of the Gujarat chapter of the BJP in 1988, and was an important figure during the election campaigns of 1995 and 1998. He was eventually appointed as the party secretary at the national level in 1998 and held that position until Oct 2001 when he was elected as the chief minister of Gujarat.
His first term as chief minister was marred by the 2002 Gujarat riots. The riots began after 59 people on a train were burned to death near Godhra. Those killed were said to be mostly Hindu pilgrims and the perpetrators Muslims. Soon after the incident, communal violence ripped through the state resulting in hundreds of deaths. The death toll has been estimated around 1,000, whereas some estimates say nearly 2,000 people were killed. Following the riots, Modi and his government was criticised by human rights organisations, the media and opposition parties for not making sufficient efforts to curb the violence. The call to find liability reached a point where India’s Supreme Court appointed a special investigation team to probe into the riots and examine the extent to which the Modi government was responsible for the violence. That team submitted a report to the court in 2010 which it stated that no evidence was found against Modi. However, three years later, in 2013, the team was accused of suppressing evidence of Modi’s involvement in the violence.
At the time of the riots, pressure from allies and opposition parties mounted on Modi and the BJP, calling for his resignation. However, the subsequent elections returned the party to power in Gujarat. During his second term as chief minister, Modi focused on the economic development of the state, making it an attractive avenue for investors.
Having achieved this, Modi utilised his third term as chief minister to improve the agricultural output of Gujarat. This was achieved through improving the groundwater supply and overall improvement in the power supply to farms. As a result, agricultural growth in the state saw a substantial increase of 9.6 per cent during 2001-07.
Modi also organised the Sadbhavana (Goodwill) Mission during late 2011 and early 2012 in order to reach out to the Muslim community residing in Gujarat. The mission involved his undertaking a series of fasts and he believed that this step would help strengthen peace, unity and harmony across the state. He was re-elected chief minister for a fourth term in 2012 from the Maninagar constituency, after winning a large majority.
— Research and text by Soonha Abro