Part 1 of 3

 

Who is Narendra Modi?

 

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As pointed out in our last blog post, Narendra Modi will be India’s next Prime Minister. In order to better understand the impact of this outcome, we have written a three part blog series to describe who Narendra Modi is, how he achieved victory, and what his victory means for India and the World.

 

First and foremost, who is Narendra Modi and what events have shaped his policies and predispositions?

 

In a country already divided along economic, social and religious lines, Narendra Modi is a deeply polarizing figure. Narendra Damodardas Modi was born on the 17th of September, 1950; just three years after Indian Independence. Much has been made of his humble upbringing. He is the son of a tea seller in the Western province of Gujarat. Perhaps more importantly, he became active in politics at a very young age, joining the RSS– a powerful Hindu nationalist group that propagates a controversial policy of Hindutva, which seeks to enshrine Hinduism in the constitution.

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He joined the BJP in 1985 after the party’s humiliating defeat in the 1984 election. Modi quickly rose through the ranks and was rewarded with an electoral victory in 2001 to be the chief minister of his home province of Gujarat. His tenure has seen a remarkable level of growth and modernization for the province of 60 million.  Between 2004-2012, Gujarat’s economy grew at a rate of 10% a year. Modi’s regime has also brought power to 18 000 villages in the region. For a country where 1/3 of its citizens live without access to electricity, this is a monumental achievement.

 

Despite providing widespread economic growth, Modi’s reputation will forever be tainted by his hardline Hindu Nationalist associations. In 2002, the Gujarat province saw an eruption of religious violence that saw the death of over 1 000 Muslims. Modi has been criticized for inaction and failing to adequately control the predominately Hindu police force. Although multiple inquiries have cleared Modi of any wrongdoing, Muslim’s claim the blood is still on his hands.

 

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In short, Modi is either loved or loathed by Indians. India’s Hindu majority (roughly 80% of the population) love him for being a pragmatic leader with a sound economic plan to revitalize India’s stagnating economy. He is praised for placing ‘toilets’ over ‘temples’ or development over religious concerns.  However, India’s Muslim minority (roughly 15%) is skeptical of his hardline Hindu Nationalism and his ties to the RSS.

Narendra Modi will lead the first majority government in 30 years, and the first one not run by the Congress Party. This marks a tipping point for India as they seek to translate their country’s promise into ever-elusive economic prosperity.

 

Tomorrow’s post will outline how Narendra Modi achieved such a landslide victory.