Narendra Damodardas Modi – From ‘tea-seller’ to India’s Prime Minister

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Updated: May 26, 2014, 18:35 PM IST

Narendra Modi did not only win the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he won it in style, helping the BJP get majority on its own and decimating the Opposition, including the Congress along the way. So when he landed in the national capital on 17 May 2014, a day after the results were declared, he expectedly got a rousing reception which started at the airport and continued till the party office at 11, Ashoka Road.

Modi seemed to enjoy every moment of it like a victor who had come to claim his prize and what a prize it was – the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy. He stood on the foot-board of his SUV flashing the “V” sign, he addressed the party workers and gave a thanksgiving speech at Varanasi for reposing their faith in him. And a day later, on May 20, at the cusp of history, in his first address in Parliament he broke down, as if all the acrimony and the aggression of months of campaigning was finally being washed away.

His 30-minute speech after he was formally elected leader of BJP’s parliamentary party was hailed by experts as ‘outstanding’ and even his critics had to admit that Modi is definitely one of the best orators in contemporary Indian politics. In his speech he promised to live up to the expectations of the 1.2 billion population of the country, especially the poor. He also promised to come up with a report card at the end of his five-year term, clearly signalling that he was up for a long haul.

And now that he has taken the oath administered by the President of India to be the country’s 15th Prime Minister, the countdown for Modi has begun. He has come to power on the plank of development, growth and governance and it will not be an easy task to meet the challenges ahead. But Modi is considered an able administrator and he will be aware at every step of the way of the hope that people have from him. He is also considered a hard-worker. This was evident from the humongous campaign that he undertook since he was anointed as BJP’s PM candidate on September 13, 2013.

From addressing rallies after rallies in every nook and corner of the country, to reaching out to the voters through 3-D technology, to holding chai-pe-charcha, to giving interviews to the media, Modi was relentless in his approach and his opponents had a hard time catching up with him. He turned the campaign into a face-off with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, slamming the dynasty and taking on the ‘first family’ head-on. He also took on the UPA government over corruption, scams, price rise and non-governance and appealed to the masses to give him 60 months and make India ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’.

Yes, campaigning in the run-up to the General Elections was Modi show all the way. With Manmohan Singh’s image taking a beating for being a ‘silent’ and ‘indecisive’ PM, Modi left no stone unturned in projecting himself as a decisive leader who symbolized hope and change in this country. He also did not shy away from evoking his humble background and showcasing himself as a man who had risen through the ranks of his party due to sheer hard-work and commitment unlike Rahul who did not earn but was bestowed with power due to being born a Gandhi.

And when results were announced on May 16 it was clear that Modi had managed to connect with the voters, who in turn had decided to fulfil all his wishes. The BJP won 282 seats (335 with the NDA), making it the first party in Independent India to win a majority on its own after the Congress and the grand old party suffered a humiliating defeat ending with 44 seats – its worst ever performance. A massive mandate like this was probably what the BJP must have only dreamt of.

In hindsight, it was a winning decision by the BJP to make Modi as the party’s PM candidate. There were murmurs within the party over his projection as the face of the party. There were questions raised about his abilities to win over allies after Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) ended a 17-year-old alliance with the BJP over Modi ascent in the party. There was open ridicule by the Opposition including the Congress as to how the BJP had scored a self-goal by elevating Modi as their man and how the country would never make a ‘divisive’ and ‘communal’ person like him their PM. He was called all sorts of names including ‘Hitler’, ‘Butcher’, ‘Murderer’ and an ‘Impotent’.

But on D-day it was Modi who had the last laugh. Though the Congress was in all probability prepared for a defeat, it was the magnitude of it which left them shell-shocked. As for other parties like the SP, BSP, JD(U) and RJD which said that he was ‘anti the idea of India’, the scale of Modi’s victory left them scrambling for cover. It was only the two ladies from West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalithaa who held fort against him.

Modi took the country by storm and his detractors by surprise – the so-called Modi ‘wave’ or the ‘Tsunami’ had delivered and how. His opponents probably erred in believing that they could play the secular card, project Modi as a polarising figure and win the elections. The common man has sent out the message loud and clear through the power of their vote that all they want is a decent life and those who do not perform will be punished. The very fact that the BJP along with its ally the Apna Dal won 73 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh shows that people voted for the party cutting across caste and religious lines for development and growth.

Nonetheless, inspite of the huge mandate that Modi has got, there is a fear in a section of the society that Modi might become too dictatorial or the minorities may be neglected under him or that freedom of speech and expression may be compromised. Of all the people it is Modi himself who perhaps will be more than aware of the misgivings about him. No wonder that he has talked about taking everybody along and has reiterated his ‘development for all’ slogan time and again.

In a democracy there should always be room for critical analysis and diverse opinions. However, the new Prime Minister of India needs to be given the time to prove himself and apprehensions and misgivings without any basis or on the basis of what happened or did not happen in the past will not do anyone any good.

Those who support Modi and feel that he is the right man to take India out of the mess that it is in have a point. He has in many ways proved himself in Gujarat, he is considered a workaholic, he is believed to be a tough taskmaster, known for keeping bureaucrats and ministers on their toes and he is also seen to have the personality to position India as a force to reckon with at the world stage. But as they say one will have to wait and watch to see as to how the Modi saga will unfold and how history will judge him.

Meanwhile, even as Modi settles down in the PM’s office, he, his party and his supporters have all the right to rejoice the day when he was sworn-in to occupy the top post in the country. Born on September 17, 1950, in a middle-class family in Vadnagar in Mehsana district and running a tea stall with his brother, as a teenager, Narendra Damodardas Modi has travelled a long distance. From being a RSS pracharak in his young days, to being the Chief Minister of Gujarat four times in a row, to being the 15th Prime Minister of India, Modi’s journey has truly been remarkable.

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