Narendra Modi’s journey began in the by-lanes of Vadnagar, a small and nondescript town in North Gujarat’s Mehsana district. Born on 17th September 1950, 3 years after India attained freedom and within months of India becoming a Republic, Narendra Modi was the third of the sixth children of Damodardas Modi and Hiraba Modi. Vadnagar is a town that is steeped in history. Archeological excavations suggest this was a vibrant centre of learning and spirituality. The Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang visited Vadnagar. Vadnagar also has a rich Buddhist history with as many as 10,000 Buddhist monks inhabiting the town centuries ago.
Narendra Modi’s early years were far from what a fairy tale upbringing is like. The family belonged to the marginalized sections of society and had to struggle to make ends meet. The entire family lived in a small single storey house (approximately 40 feet by 12 feet). His father sold tea at the tea stall he set up in the local railway station. In his early years, Narendra Modi too lent a hand to his father at the tea stall.
These formative years left a strong imprint on Narendra Modi. As a child, Narendra Modi balanced his studies, non-academic life and his contribution at the family tea stall. His schoolmates recall Narendra as a diligent student with a penchant for debating and reading. He would spend hours and hours reading in the school library. Among the sports, he was very fond of swimming. Narendra Modi had a wide range of friends from all the communities. As a child he often celebrated both Hindu and Muslim festivals considering the large number of Muslim friends he had in the neighbourhood.
Yet, his thoughts, and dreams went way beyond a conventional life that began in the classroom and ended in the environs of an office. He wanted to go out there and make a difference to society…to wipe tears and suffering among people. At a young age he developed an inclination towards renunciation and asceticism. He gave up eating salt, chilies, oil and jaggery. Reading the works of Swami Vivekananda cover to cover took Narendra Modi to a journey of spiritualism and laid the foundation for his own mission to fulfill Swami Vivekananda’s dream of a Jagad Guru Bharat.
If there is one word that characterized Narendra Modi’s childhood and stayed with him for the rest of his life, it is service. When floods wrecked havoc in the Tapi River, 9 year old he and his friends started a food stall and donated the proceeds for relief work. When the war with Pakistan was at its peak he set out on the railway station and served tea to the Jawans who were going and coming from the border. This was a small step but it displayed his firm resolve to answer the call of Mother India, even at a remarkably young age.
As a child Narendra Modi had one dream- to serve in the Indian Army. For many youngsters of his time, the Army was seen as the ultimate means of serving Mother India. As luck would have it, his family was dead opposed to the idea. Narendra Modi was very keen to study in Sainik School located in nearby Jamnagar but when the time came to pay the fees, there was no money at home. Surely, Narendra was disappointed. But, fate had different plans for this young boy who was disappointed on not being able to wear the uniform of a Jawan. Over the years he embarked on a unique path that took him across India in pursuit of the larger mission to serve humanity.
Narendra Modi Biography and Profile
Shri Narendra Modi was sworn-in as India’s Prime Minister on 30th May 2019, marking the start of his second term in office. The first ever Prime Minister to be born after Independence, Shri Modi has previously served as the Prime Minister of India from 2014 to 2019. He also has the distinction of being the longest serving Chief Minister of Gujarat with his term spanning from October 2001 to May 2014.
In the 2014 and 2019 Parliamentary elections, Shri Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to record wins, securing absolute majority on both occasions. The last time that a political party secured such an absolute majority was in the elections of 1984.
Inspired by the motto of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’, Shri Modi has ushered in a paradigm shift in governance that has led to inclusive, development-oriented and corruption-free governance. The Prime Minister has worked with speed and scale to realise the aim of Antyodaya, or ensuring last-mile delivery of schemes and services.
Leading international agencies have noted that under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi, India has been eliminating poverty at record pace. This is attributed to a series of pro-poor decisions taken by the Central Government.
Today, India is home to the world’s largest healthcare programme, Ayushman Bharat. Covering over 50 crore Indians, Ayushman Bharat provides top quality and affordable healthcare to the poor and neo-middle class.
The Lancet, considered among the most prestigious health journals in the world has lauded Ayushman Bharat, stating that this scheme attends to the larger discontent about the health sector in India. The journal also noted PM Modi’s efforts to prioritise universal health coverage.
Understanding that financial exclusion was a bane for the poor, the Prime Minister launched the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, that aimed at opening bank accounts for every Indian. Now, over 35 crore Jan Dhan accounts have been opened. These accounts have not only banked the unbanked but also opened the doors for other avenues of empowerment.
Going a step ahead of Jan Dhan, Shri Modi emphasised on Jan Suraksha, by giving insurance and pension cover to the most vulnerable sections of society. The JAM trinity (Jan Dhan- Aadhaar- Mobile) has led to elimination of middle men and ensured transparency and speed, powered by technology.
In a first, over 42 crore people associated with the unorganised sector now have pension coverage under the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Man Dhan Yojana. During the very first Cabinet Meeting after the 2019 election results, a similar pension scheme for traders was announced as well.
The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, launched in 2016 provides free cooking gas connections to the poor. It has proven to be a major game-changer in providing smoke-free kitchens to over 7 crore beneficiaries, most of whom are women.
18,000 villages that were without electricity even after 70 long years of Independence have been electrified.
Shri Modi believes that no Indian should be homeless and to realise this vision, over 1.25 crore houses were built between 2014 and 2019. The pace of house construction remains as quick to fulfil the PM’s vision of ‘Housing for All’ by 2022.
Agriculture is a sector that is very close to Shri Narendra Modi. During the interim budget of 2019, the Government announced a monetary incentive for farmers called the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi. In almost three weeks, on 24th February 2019, the scheme was launched and instalments have been paid regularly since then. During the first Cabinet Meeting of PM Modi’s second term, it was decided to extend the PM Kisan benefits to all farmers, removing the 5 acre limit that was present earlier. With this, the Government of India would be devoting almost Rs. 87,000 crore per year for farmer welfare.
Shri Modi has also focused path-breaking initiatives for agriculture ranging from Soil Health Cards, E-NAM for better markets and a renewed focus on irrigation. On 30th May 2019, PM Modi fulfilled a major promise by creating a new Jal Shakti Ministry to cater to all aspects relating to water resources.
On 2nd October 2014, Mahatma Gandhi’s Birth Anniversary, the PM launched ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ a mass movement for cleanliness across the nation. The scale and impact of the movement is historic. Today, sanitation coverage has risen from 38% in 2014 to 99%. Several states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free (ODF). Substantive measures been taken for a clean Ganga.
The World Health Organisation has appreciated the Swachh Bharat Mission and has opined that it would save three lakh lives.
Shri Modi believes that transportation is an important means towards transformation. That is why, the Government of India has been working to create next-generation infrastructure be it in terms of more highways, railways, i-ways and waterways. The UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) Scheme has made aviation sector more people-friendly and boosted connectivity.
PM Modi launched the ‘Make in India’ initiative to turn India into an international manufacturing powerhouse. This effort has led to transformative results. For instance, the number of mobile manufacturing units has risen from 2 in 2014 to 122 in 2019. India has made significant strides in ‘Ease of Doing Business’, improving its ranking from 142 in 2014 to 77 in 2019. The Government of India rolled out the GST during a historic session of Parliament in 2017, which has realised the dream of ‘One Nation, One Tax.’
During his tenure, special attention has been paid to India’s rich history and culture. India is home to the world’s largest statue, the State of Unity, a fitting tribute to Sardar Patel. This Statue was built through a special mass movement where tools of farmers and soil from all states and Union Territories of India were used, signifying the spirit of ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat.’
PM Modi is deeply passionate about environmental causes. He has time and again called for closing of ranks to create a clean and green planet. As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shri Modi created a separate Climate Change Department to create innovative solutions to climate change. This spirit was seen in the 2015 COP21 Summit in Paris where PM Modi played a key role in the high-level deliberations.
Going a step ahead of climate change, PM Modi has talked about climate justice. In 2018, Heads of State and Government from several nations came to India for the launch of the International Solar Alliance, an innovative effort to harness solar energy for a better planet.
Recognising his efforts towards environmental conservation, PM Modi was honoured with the United Nations ‘Champions of the Earth Award.’
Fully sensitive to the fact that climate change has made our planet prone to natural disasters, Shri Modi has brought a new approach to disaster management, harnessing the power of technology and the strength of human resources. As Chief Minister, he transformed Gujarat that had just been ravaged by a devastating earthquake on 26th January 2001. Likewise, he introduced new systems to combat floods and droughts in Gujarat that were internationally lauded.
Through administrative reforms, Shri Modi has always given priority to justice for citizens. In Gujarat, he spearheaded the start of evening courts to ensure people’s issues are resolved. At the Centre, he began PRAGATI ((Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation) to expedite pending projects that were delaying growth.
Shri Modi’s foreign policy initiatives have realised the true potential and role of world’s largest democracy. He began his first term in office in presence of all Heads of States of SAARC Nations and invited BIMSTEC leaders at the start of the second. His address to the General Assembly of United Nations was appreciated across the world. Shri Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to embark on a bilateral visit to Nepal after a long period of 17 years, to Australia after 28 years, to Fiji after 31 years and UAE as well as Seychelles after 34 years. Since taking over, Shri Modi attended UN, BRICS, SAARC and G-20 Summits, where India’s interventions and views on a variety of global economic and political issues were widely appreciated.
PM Modi has been conferred various honours including the highest civilian honour of Saudi Arabia Sash of King Abdulaziz. Shri Modi has been also been conferred the top awards of Russia (The Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First), Palestine (Grand Collar of the State of Palestine), Afghanistan (Amir Amanullah Khan Award), UAE (Zayed Medal) and Maldives (Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen). In 2018, PM received the prestigious Seoul Peace Prize for his contribution to peace and development.
Narendra Modi’s clarion call for marking a day as ‘International Day of Yoga’ received an overwhelming response at the UN. In a first, a total of 177 Nations across the world came together and passed the resolution to declare 21st June as the ‘International Day of Yoga at the UN.’
Shri Modi was born on 17 September, 1950, in a small town in Gujarat. His family belonged to the ‘other backward class’ which is among the marginalised sections of society. He grew up in a poor but loving family ‘without a spare rupee’. The initial hardships of life not only taught the value of hard work but also exposed him to the avoidable sufferings of the common people. This inspired him from a very young age to immerse himself in service of people and the nation. In his initial years, he worked with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a nationalist organisation devoted to nation building and later devoted himself in politics working with the Bharatiya Janata Party organization at National and State level. Shri Modi completed his MA in political science from Gujarat University.
Narendra Modi is a ‘People’s Leader’, dedicated to solving their problems and improving their well-being. Nothing is more satisfying to him than being amongst the people, sharing their joys and alleviating their sorrows. His powerful ‘personal connect’ with the people on ground is complemented by a strong online presence. He is known as India’s most techno-savvy leader, using the web to reach people and bring about change in their lives. He is very active on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Sound Cloud, Linkedin, Weibo and other forums.
Beyond politics, Narendra Modi enjoys writing. He has authored several books, including poetry. He begins his day with Yoga, which strengthens his body and mind and instills the power of calmness in an otherwise fast-paced routine.
27th October 2013 would have passed off as yet another Sunday had it not been for the gruesome and unfortunate bomb blasts that ripped through Patna’s iconic Gandhi Maidan just as the BJP’s then Prime Ministerial candidate Shri Narendra Modi was to address a rally there.
As the enthusiastic crowd thronged the venue, one by one bombs ripped through the ground.
When Shri Narendra Modi reached Patna he had two choices- either to return to Gujarat and not address the rally (and add to the fear at the large venue) or to come and speak at the rally.
Not only did Shri Modi address the rally but also made a very passionate plea for Hindus and Muslims to come together and fight poverty instead of fighting each other. He also repeatedly told the record audience to disperse peacefully and in an orderly manner without causing inconvenience to anyone.
Later, it transpired that there was a bomb beneath the stage where Shri Modi was speaking.
Weeks after the rally, Shri Modi remarked, “My organizational experience has taught me that even a rumor that an animal is on the loose at the rally venue can cause so much chaos so imagine what would have happened had someone announced there are bombs or if I would not have addressed the rally. I was clear that there was no question of not going on stage.”
A week later, Shri Modi was again in Patna to meet the families who lost their near and dear ones due to the bomb blasts.
Patna’s Hunkar Rally is remembered as a turning point. It illustrated wonderfully what true leadership is particularly in the most adverse circumstances. The message of fighting poverty and not each other also resonated in the hearts and minds of a billion Indians.
When an alert Narendra Modi saved the lives of DD journalists and camerapersons
The alertness of Shri Narendra Modi ensured the lives of journalists and camerapersons were saved at a programme in Jamnagar district in Gujarat on 30th August 2016. The occasion was the launch of the SAUNI Yojana, an ambitious irrigation related project that will help mitigate the water problems in the water scarce Saurashtra region of Gujarat.
As the Prime Minister and other authorities, including Chief Minister Vijay Rupani were seeing the exhibits and pushing the button to start the flow of water from the dam, Shri Modi noticed that there were still some people who were standing on the downstream side. The cameramen were blissfully unaware of the risky atmosphere they were standing in. It was at this time that Shri Modi, by raising and clapping his hands alerted them and urged them to move out. This saved precious lives just at the right time.
One of the cameramen, while talking to a news agency said that the Prime Minister has given him a new life. Shri Modi’s alertness has time and again been the subject of much appreciation. On 5th April 2015, when the Prime Minister was in Vigyan Bhavan to attend a conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices, a photographer fell down. The person who lent him a helping hand was none other than Shri Narendra Modi. Even this anecdote has become widely popular.
When the Prime Minister’s words instill trust and togetherness
Swacch Bharat Movement, initiated with the aim to make India dirt-free has touched the lives of crores of people of India. For the first time, a person no less than the Prime Minister of India spoke about cleanliness from the ramparts of the Red Fort during his Independence Day Speech on 15th August 2014. On 2nd October that year the Prime Minister personally wielded the broom and led from the front in the endeavour to create a Swachh Bharat. Time and again, he has spoken about cleanliness and brought it at the forefront of public discourse. Be it an official programme or a political rally, the topic of cleanliness regularly finds a mention.
No wonder people from all walks of life have supported Swachh Bharat Mission with unparalleled vigour. The media too has supported the movement. An example of how Swachh Bharat Mission and the Prime Minister’s words have influenced the nation can be seen in the actions of Chandrakant Kulkarni.
Chandrakant Kulkarni, retired government employee, belongs to a middle class family and is a pensioner drawing a monthly pension of Rs. 16,000 per month. Inspired by the Swachh Bharat Mission, he decided to contribute Rs. 5000 per month to the cause and that too not once, but in the form of 52 post dated cheques which bear a date for each forthcoming month!
A pensioner giving almost a third of his salary for a clean India. This illustrates the trust the Prime Minister’s words have created in the minds of the people and how citizens are feeling that they are an integral part of taking the nation to new heights of progress. Shri Modi on his part has shared numerous such anecdotes of how people are coming together to create a ‘Clean India.’ Most of his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programmes have atleast one anecdote based on cleanliness. As PM, Shri Modi has surely succeeded in creating a mass movement for cleanliness that always augurs well for the growth of India.
Innovative Field Organizer: An example from 1980s Gujarat
It is well known that Narendra Modi before he became Chief Minister and Prime Minister was an innovative Field Organizer. He has been involved in organisation work from Panchayat elections to Parliamentary elections. His innovative organising skills are best understood from how he, as a key member of the Gujarat BJP organisation helped the BJP win the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation elections in the 1980s.
His innovation in Organizational Methods was focused on two things. First was division of labor by making sure every Karyakarta had a goal driven task and every task driven goal had a Karyakarta assigned to it. The second aspect was ensuring there was an emotional connect with the campaign. He was able to inspire that emotional connect by advocating a sense of ownership towards the City and its Governance.
The highlight of his community organizing during that campaign was micro-engagement with Karyakartas and engaged citizens through 1000 Community level Group Meetings in Ahmedabad. As a preparation for these 1000 Community level Meetings he had conducted a Training Course for 100 Karyakarta volunteers. The focus of the training was on what the Karyakarta was expected to do at a Community level Group Meeting – what issues to highlight what arguments to make ?
This was a novel and radical move as far as election strategy was concerned. The Community level group meetings would comprise of citizen groups of 25 to 30 where articulate speakers would be encouraged to speak up on the issues concerning the city. To get women engaged in the process he had started all Women’s Group Meetings in the afternoons after 2pm. He even managed to persuade Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji to come for a Municipal Campaign.
There is something to be said of the uniqueness of Narendra Modi’s approach to Field Organizing. This blending of a structured process of volunteer training, volunteer mobilization with an emotional local connect created the ground conditions for the BJP victory in the Ahmedabad Municipal Election to provide Narendra Modi with a template for statewide Organizing of the Sanghatan with a micro-focus at the Local Level.
Such precision was repeated election after election, be it in Gujarat, Lok Sabha Elections as a General Secretary and when Shri Modi finally joined electoral politics in 2001. His ability to connect with people and understand their needs and aspirations has been truly beneficial.
Favourite Film and Song
Considering his work schedule and the travel, it is natural that Narendra Modi never really had the time to watch films. As Modi explained in an interview, “I am generally not inclined towards movies. But I used to watch them in my youth, out of that curiosity which only youth brings. Even then, it was never my temperament to watch movies just for entertainment. Instead, it was in my habit to search for lessons for life in the stories those movies told. I recall that, once, I went with some of my teachers and friends to watch the famous Hindi movie Guide that was based on a novel by R.K. Narayan. And, after the movie, I got into an intense debate with my friends.
My argument was that the central idea in the movie was that, ultimately, everyone gets guided by his or her inner soul. But since I was too young, my friends did not take me seriously!” The film Guide made an impression on him for another purpose – the grim reality of drought and the visualimagery of helplessness that lack of water brings to farmers. Later on in life, when he had the opportunity, he devoted a substantial portion of his tenure in Gujarat in promoting institutionalised mechanisms of water conservation. It is a project which he has brought to the national level as well in his Prime Ministerial role.
As Shri Modi got immersed in work and the demands of his elected office became his first priority, the luxury of being able to watch films was no longer available to him. However, he did constantly remain in touch with the world of art and culture. Deeply valuing the contribution of our artists in our overall cultural consciousness, Shri Modi initiated innovative ideas like the Kite Festival in Gujarat to more recently organising the Bharat Parv in the Rajpath Lawns near India Gate.
How is that Narendra Modi never gets tired? What is the source of his energy that he can keep up with such a demanding schedule, weeks after weeks and yet deliver with machine like consistency the same quality of work every time? This is a question that has often been asked by both supporters of the Prime Minister and indeed those who critically analyze him.
This question was posed directly to him in the first ever Townhall by and in a recent television by a New Delhi based media house. The answer that Narendra Modi gave made practical sense from his personal point of view but has deep philosophical connotations as well – tiredness is never because of working hard to achieve a mission but more a mental state about work left unfinished or pending. To quote from Modi’s own words in the interview to Rahul Joshi, “Actually we get tired by not working and work gives you satisfaction. That satisfaction gives you energy. I have felt this and always tell this to my young friends. Tiredness is more psychological. Everyone has the same capacity needed for the volume of the work. You keep accepting new challenges and your inner self will always back you. This is in-built.”
His mantra is simple yet profound – If you are enjoying your work you would never feel tired because you are doing what you are enjoying !
The year was 1995. The BJP was fresh from having achieved a first ever victory in Gujarat Assembly elections and forming a majority government of its own. Two months later, civic elections were scheduled across the state. As preparations were on in full swing, Modi one day called a few of his trusted, non-party-cadre, aides and gave them a device they had not seen before – something which he had picked from his recent travel abroad – a Digital Camera. Their task was to go around the state along with the party campaigning teams and digitally record what they saw – people and their expressions, their attires, their habits, attendance in public meetings, what people ate their work places, at tea stalls – digitally capture the essence of Gujarat. This was much before Digital Camera had become popular in the West, leave alone being used in India.
It is a habit that Modi has kept even since – of being ahead of the curve in first seeing potential and then adopting the latest technological and digital inventions, not just personally but as a governance model as well. It is no surprise then that not just among politicians, but indeed in the larger society, Modi was the first to see and realize the potential of social media as not just a one-way broadcast medium but one which establishes a two way digital connect of equals. As CM of Gujarat, social media contributors would find a ready audience with him. As Prime Minister, one of his first initiatives was to institutionalize this connect with the launch of MyGov in July 2014. A year later, ‘Digital India’ was formally launched as a key signature initiative to usher in a governance model which was responsive, transparent and accountable. Speaking at the Digital India event in San Jose, California in 2015, Modi summed up his philosophy “When you think of the exponential speed and scale of expansion of social media or a service, you have to believe that it is equally possible to rapidly transform the lives of those who have long stood on the margins of hope. So, friends out of this conviction was born the vision of Digital India. It is an enterprise for India’s transformation on a scale that is, perhaps, unmatched in human history. Not just to touch the lives of the weakest, farthest and the poorest citizen of India, but change the way our nation will live and work. “
Never Losing Cool
Narendra Modi has an impression of being a hard task master and driving his team to the limit of their ability and then motivating them to achieve even beyond. So does Modi ever lose cool when the team fails to deliver? Is Modi a rude person? A situation that arose on 31st August 2012 offers an interesting insight into how Modi approaches such situations. The occasion was the first ever Google Hangout by an Indian political leader. The global interest was so overwhelming that Google servers crashed just at the time of the broadcast and the live broadcast on Youtube could start only after a 45 minute delay. After the broadcast ended, the Google International Team was invited into Modi’s office for a courtesy chat. Fearing a verbal lashing, given his reputation for perfection, and also given how the general perception is about Indian politicians in such situations, the team was pleasantly surprised to meet a smiling Modi who only engaged them in discussing their future plans and what technological upgrades may be required to avoid repeat of similar situations in future?
This is not just a one off anecdote. This essential nature of Modi – of one who never loses cool in even the most trying of circumstances – is a reputation that is been backed up by all those who have interacted with him. He is never rude in person. If a person or team fails to deliver, he advises them to use the opportunity to learn even from that experience and make detail plans and then implement them from the next time. As long as the attitude to learn is there, Modi will be on your side.
Narendra Modi and the BJP Organisation-from civic polls to central elections
Did you know before he took the plunge in the world of electoral politics, Shri Narendra Modi had spent years in the BJP organisation, where he became known for his organisation skills and his grass root level approach that endeared him to party Karyakartas.
In 1987, Shri Narendra Modi joined the BJP where one of his first responsibilities was campaign for the 1987 Ahmedabad civic polls. A spirited campaign ensured the BJP won the polls.
In 1990, he was in the core team to strategize for the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections. The results of the elections brought an end to a decade of Congress rule. From 141 and 149 seats in 1980 and 1985 respectively, the Congress was down to 33 seats and the BJP won 67 seats and joined a coalition government with Shri Chimanbhai Patel. Though the alliance was short-lived, the BJP had emerged as a formidable force in Gujarat.
In 1995, again when Shri Narendra Modi was actively involved in the campaign for the Assembly Polls, the BJP decided for the first time to contest all 182 seats. In a historic outcome, the party won 121 seats and formed the Government.
In 1996 Shri Modi went to Delhi as the National Secretary of the BJP and was given the charge of key north-Indian states like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP formed a Government in Himachal Pradesh on its own in 1998 and formed coalitions in Haryana (1996), Punjab (1997) and Jammu and Kashmir. His responsibility in Delhi gave Shri Modi the opportunity to work with leaders like Sardar Parkash Singh Badal, Bansi Lal and Farooq Abdullah.
Shri Modi was entrusted with the role of General Secretary (Organisation), a very important position previously held by stalwarts like Sundar Singh Bhandari and Kushabhau Thakre. As the General Secretary (Organisation), his role in the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha campaigns was key. The BJP became the single largest party in both polls and formed the Government under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
While in the organisation, Shri Modi groomed new leadership, encouraged young Karyakartas and also emphasized on usage of technology for campaigning.
Most teenagers at the age of 17 think about their careers and try to enjoy the last remnants of childhood, but for Narendra Modi at that age things were very different. At 17, he made an extraordinary decision, which changed the course of his life. He decided to leave home and travel across India.
His family was shocked but they accepted Narendra’s wish to leave the confines of his small town life. When the day finally dawned for him to leave, his mother prepared a sweet dish that is cooked on special occasions and applied the customary ‘tilak’ (a mark on the forehead).
Among the places that he traveled to includedthe Himalayas (where he stayed at Garudachatti), Ramkrishna Ashram in West Bengal and even the Northeast. These travels left a lasting impression on the youngster. He travelled across the expansive landscape of India exploring the various cultures in various parts of the country. It was also a time of spiritual awakening for him that connected him further to a man he always admired- Swami Vivekananda.
The RSS Calls
Narendra came back two years later, but stayed home only for two weeks. This time his destination was fixed and the mission was also clear- he was going to Ahmedabad, determined to work with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Set up in 1925, the RSS is a socio-cultural organisation working towards the economic, social and cultural regeneration of India.
His first brush with the RSS was at the tender age of eight when he would attend the local youth meetings of the RSS after a day’s work at the family tea stall. The reason for attending such meetings was far from political. It was here that he met one of the strongest influences on his life, Laxmanrao Inamdar also known as ‘Vakil Saheb.’
The Road to Ahmedabad and Beyond
With this background, an almost 20-year-old Narendra arrived in Gujarat’s largest city Ahmedabad. He became a regular member of the RSS and his dedication and organisation skills impressed Vakil Saheb and others. In 1972 he became a Pracharak, giving his full time to the RSS. He shared his accommodation with other Pracharaks and followed a rigorous daily routine. The day began at 5:00 am and went on till late night. In the midst of such a hectic routine Narendra completed a degree in political science. He always valued education and learning.
As a Pracharak he had to travel all over Gujarat. Sometime between 1972 and 1973 he stayed at the Santram Mandir in Nadiad, which is a part of Kheda district. In 1973 Narendra Modi was given responsibility of working for a massive summit organised in Siddhpur where he met top leaders of the Sangh.
The atmosphere in Gujarat as well as India was very volatile when Narendra Modi was cutting his teeth as an activist. When he reached Ahmedabad, the city was reeling under one of the worst instances of communal rioting. In the rest of the nation too, the Congress Party, which had already suffered reverses in the 1967 Lok Sabha Elections had spilt between the faction of Mrs Indira Gandhi and the erstwhile syndicate, whose leaders included Morarji Desai from Gujarat. Riding on the wave of a campaign to eradicate poverty, Mrs Gandhi swept back to power in 1971 Lok Sabha elections winning 352 out of 518 seats in the Lok Sabha, the popularly elected chamber of the India Parliament. In the Gujarat State Elections too Mrs Gandhi replicated the strong performance, winning 140 out of 182 seats and capturing a gigantic voteshare of over 50%.
However the euphoria of the Congress and Mrs. Gandhi faded as quickly as it was created. The dreams of quick reform and progress had given way to disillusionment amongst the common man in Gujarat. The struggles and sacrifices of political stalwarts such as Indulal Yagnik, Jivraj Mehta and Balwant Rai Mehta had been undone by the politics of greed.
By the end of the 1960s and early 1970s, corruption and misgovernance of the Congress government in Gujarat had reached new heights. The grand promise of ‘Garibi Hatao’ turned out to be an empty one as it gradually changed into ‘Garib Hatao’. The condition of the poor worsened, and in Gujarat the misery was compounded with a severe famine and steep price rise. Endless queues for basic commodities had become a common sight in the state. There was no respite for the common man.
Navnirman Movement: Youth Power
People’s discontent converted into public expressions of anger when in December 1973, a few students of an Engineering College in Morbi (Gujarat) protested against the exorbitant rise in their food bills. Similar protests began to take place across the state of Gujarat. These protests soon gained widespread support and ignited a state wide mass movement against the government, known as the Navnirman Movement.
Narendra Modi was drawn to the mass movement that attracted all sections of society. The movement further strengthened when it gained the support of Jayaprakash Narayan, a well-respected public figure and a known crusader against corruption. When Jayaprakash Narayan came to Ahmedabad, Narendra had the unique opportunity to meet the JP himself. The several talks held by the veteran and other leaders left a strong impression on young Narendra.
Eventually student power won and the incumbent Congress Chief Minister had to resign. The joy however was short-lived. The dark clouds of authoritarianism struck on the midnight of 25th June 1975 when Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency.
The Dark Days of the Emergency
Mrs Gandhi feared she would lose her top post in the wake of an adverse court judgment that nullified the elections, and thought the Emergency was the best step at that point. Democracy was under siege, freedom of speech curtailed and the leading lights of the opposition Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Shri LK Advani, Shri George Fernandes to Shri Morarji Desai were arrested.
Narendra Modi was at the core of the anti-Emergency movement. He was a part of the Gujarat Lok Sangharsh Samiti (GLSS) that was formed to resist tyranny. He rose to become the General Secretary of GLSS, where his primary role was to coordinate between the activists across the state. This was tough considering the strict surveillance anti-Congress leaders and activists were subjected to.
There are several stories about Narendra Modi’s work during the Emergency. One of them was how he rode a scooter and took a wanted senior RSS figure to a safe house. Similarly, it emerged that one of the leaders who was arrested was carrying his papers with him at the time of the arrest. The papers had to be retrieved at any cost. It fell on Narendra Modi to ensure that the paper was duly retrieved from the police station where the leader was being held and that too in front of police force! When Nanaji Deshmukh was arrested, he had with him a book containing the addresses of sympathizers. Narendra Modi ensured that each and everyone was removed to safer locations so that nobody was arrested.
Among Narendra Modi’s other responsibilities were to make travel arrangements for anti-Emergency activists to and from Gujarat. Sometimes his work meant that he had to move in disguise so that he was not recognized – he would be a Sikh gentleman one day and an elderly man with a beard the next.
One of Narendra Modi’s most cherished experiences of the Emergency days was that he got to work with leaders and activists from different parties. Narendra Modi wrote on his blog on June 2013:
For youngsters like me, the Emergency gave a wonderful opportunity to work with a wide spectrum of leaders and organisations that were fighting for the same goal. It enabled us to work beyond institutions we had been brought up with. From stalwarts of our family, Atal ji, Advani ji, late Shri Dattopant Thengadi, Late Shri Nanaji Deshmukh to socialists like Shri George Fernandes to Congressmen like Shri Ravindra Varma, who worked closely with Morarjibhai Desai and were unhappy with the Emergency, we got inspired by leaders who belonged to different schools of thought. I was fortunate to have learnt a lot from people such as former Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth Shri Dhirubhai Desai, the humanist Shri CT Daru and former Chief Ministers of Gujarat Shri Babubhai Jashbhai Patel and Shri Chimanbhai Patel and prominent Muslim leader late Shri Habib-ur-Rehman. The struggle and determination of Late Shri Morarjibhai Desai, who steadfastly resisted the authoritarianism of the Congress and even left the party, comes to the mind.
It was as if a vibrant confluence of thoughts and ideologies had taken place for a larger good. Rising over differences of caste, creed, community or religion we were working with our common objective- to uphold the democratic ethos of the country. In December 1975, we worked for a very important meeting of all Opposition MPs in Gandhinagar. This meeting was also attended by Independent MPs late Shri Purushottam Mavalankar, Shri Umashankar Joshi and Shri Krishan Kant.
Outside the realm of politics Narendra Modi got an opportunity to work with social organisations and several Gandhians. He vividly recalls meeting both George Fernandes (whom he refers to as ‘George Sahab’) and Nanaji Deshmukh. During those dark days he also kept writing about his experiences, which later took the shape of a book ‘Aapatkal Me Gujarat’ (Gujarat During the Emergency).
Beyond the Emergency
Like the Navnirman Movement, the Emergency was followed by a victory of the people. In the Parliamentary Elections of 1977 Mrs Indira Gandhi was routed. The people voted for change and in the new Janata Party Government, Jana Sangh leaders like Atal ji and Advani ji became important Cabinet Ministers.
Around the same time, Narendra Modi was made the ‘Sambhaag Pracharak’ (equivalent of a regional organiser) as an appreciation of his activism and organisational work during the preceding years. He was given charge of South and Central Gujarat. At the same time he was called to Delhi and asked to chronicle the official RSS account of the Emergency Period. It meant more work and balancing both regional and national duties, which Narendra Modi did with ease and efficiency.
His travels across Gujarat continued and increased through the early 1980s. This gave him the opportunity to visit every Taluka and almost every village in the state. This experience came very handy for him both as an organiser and as the Chief Minister. It gave him a first hand view of the problems people face and increased his resolve to work harder to solve them. When droughts, floods or riots struck he would lead the relief efforts too.
Narendra Modi was happily immersed in his work but the elders in the RSS and the newly formed BJP felt otherwise, they wanted him to take on more responsibility and in 1987 another chapter began in Narendra Modi’s life. From then on, he was as much on the streets as he would be formulating party strategies. He would have to work with Party leaders and sit with Karyakartas.
The boy from Vadnagar who left his home to serve the nation was about to take another giant step, but for him it was merely a continuation of his journey to bring smiles on the faces of his countrymen and women. After a Yatra to Kailash Mansarovar, Narendra Modi got down to work as the General Secretary in the Gujarat BJP.
When simplicity becomes style: the story behind the Modi Kurta
The Modi Kurta has a legendary following among people but this widely acclaimed ‘style statement’ that it has become has very simple origins.
On the origins of the ‘Modi Kurta’ the Prime Minister said:
“My work with the RSS and BJP not only meant excessive travelling, but also uncertain and punishing schedules. And, as someone who always washed his own clothes, I realized that washing a full sleeved Kurta was tougher and more time consuming so I decided to cut his Kurtas into half sleeved ones.”
Thus the Modi Kurta was born!
As time progressed, particularly in the recent few years the Modi Kurta has become famous world over. Other merchandise like ‘Modi Masks’, caps, t-shirts, badges even chocolates have been seen time and again but nothing is as popular as the Modi Kurta- crisp and colourful, simple and elegant.
What Narendra Modi does on counting day
Counting day is one of the most important days for a political leader. It is the day of judgment, that will determine the course of action for a leader and a party for the next five years atleast.
Thus, it is natural for any leader to be active and restless as the votes are being counted. Often, leaders are glued to their screens, workers and aides are entering the room with latest trends and results.
A notable exception is Shri Narendra Modi.
Is he glued to the TV screen? No!
Is his room full of aides and supporters, bustling with latest trends and results? No!
Then what is he doing?
By all accounts, it is business as usual for him. His daily routine continues without any hitch.
On 16th May 2014, when the rest of the world was seeing the way India votes, Shri Modi, the PM candidate of the winning party and the central figure in the entire campaign was continuing with his routine. He answered the first telephone call, from Shri Rajnath Singh and then went to meet his mother and Shri Keshubhai Patel to seek their blessings.
Its been like this in 2002, 2007 and 2012 as well.
For a man who never made high office the sole aim of his life, an election result day is just like any other day. Whatever the people have in store, will be accepted with humility.
A heart of gold cures a heart ailment
Our youth are our pride, the people who will take our nation to newer heights of progress. It is our first and foremost duty to help our youngsters when they face any trouble or ailment. 7-year-old Vaishali from Pune belongs to a lesser-privileged family and was suffering from a hole in her heart for more than two years. Imagine the ordeal she would have had to suffer all these years!
When young Vaishali decided to write a letter to the Prime Minister seeking help for a heart ailment little did she know that the Prime Minister would not only reply to help her but also personally meet her and boost her morale. Vaishali’s two-page letter was an emotional plea to the Prime Minister of India, to help her as his daughter so that her dream of becoming a police officer comes true.
Taking cognizance of the letter, the Prime Minister asked officials to ensure Vaishali was identified, she get access to proper medical examination and her treatment done free of cost.
Once this happened, Vaishali wrote a very touching letter to the Prime Minister and attached a drawing with the letter, to which the also Prime Minister replied.
Then, when the Prime Minister visited Pune on 25th June 2016, he personally met young Vaishali and her family. Shri Modi said that this meeting will remained etched in his memory.
The anecdote of Vaishali is just one example. Several such letters from people reach the Prime Minister and his office. Every effort is made to address the issue concerned and ensure the citizens of India face no trouble.
No VIP, only EPI (Every Person is Important) in New India
Ever since taking over as Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has emphasized on ending the VIP culture, which has plagued the nation for decades. Through his powerful words and actions, he has shown that all citizens are equal and that there is no room for any differentiation in the country.
PM Modi said that in the New India, it is EPI (Every Person is Important) and not VIP that is the guiding principle. He elaborated on this during the 50th Raising Day program of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) on 10th March 2019 in Ghaziabad. A candid PM Modi recalled an incident from the days when he worked with the BJP organization and how he cooled down the temper of a party colleague who was checked by the CISF personnel at an airport.
He complimented the CISF personnel and said that despite any pressure, they should do their duty and protect the nation. PM Modi also said that it is the political leaders who are the biggest hindrances to the CISF personnel doing their duty. This part of the speech drew a rapturous applause from the audience.
Make a promise, says PM Modi
On 4th March 2019, PM Narendra Modi was speaking at the grand programme to lay the foundation stone for the Vishv Umiyadham Complex when he said to the large gathering- “I have a request from you, will you help me.”
When a political personality makes such a statement, the instinctive reaction would be that he or she is seeking votes or support. Afterall, this is how India’s political culture has been for decades. However, PM Modi said to the gathering that he seeks their pledge to ensure gender equality and never indulge in the shameful practice of female foeticide.
Ever since assuming office, PM Modi has worked at the forefront to ensure gender equality and particularly empowerment of women. He has time and again stated that more than women development, the focus must be on women-led development. It was from Haryana, a state earlier known for its skewed sex ratio that PM Modi launched the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ movement. Over the last five years, the movement has received phenomenal results.
The Mudra Yojana, aimed at giving wings to the aspirations of millions has a majority of women beneficiaries. In a revolutionary step, houses under the flagship PM Awas Yojana are allotted to women members of the family. This seemingly small step goes a long way in safeguarding the dignity and security of women. These efforts are also in line with PM Modi’s vision of building an India where our Nari Shakti is at the forefront of national progress and can pursue her ambitions without any fear or obstacles.
Food for thought
It is natural to ask – what is it that the Prime Minister of India likes to eat? Is he someone who relishes food. An insight to this was given by Narendra Modi, who said:
“Those who work in public life, their lives are very irregular. So, if one wants to be active in public life, one needs to have a tough stomach. For 35 years, working in various organizational capacities meant I had to travel all over the nation and I had to seek food and would eat whatever I got.I never asked people to make something special for me.
I like Khichdi very much. But then, I eat whatever I get.”
He added, “I want my health to be such that it wont be a burden for the nation. Till my last breath I want to remain a healthy human being.”
The role of the Prime Minister entails a lot of travelling and a lot of banquets to attend. He does enjoy the local vegetarian cuisines served in every banquet. Being a teetotaler, his glass invariably has water or a juice instead of any alcoholic beverage.
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