Born a tea seller’s son, India’s next prime minister long had his sights set on the top job (w/ video)

Published: May 16, 2014

Chief Minister of western Gujarat state and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi flashes the victory sign as he arrives at a public rally after his victory in Vadodara on May 16, 2014. INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

KATY DAIGLE
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW DELHI — India’s next prime minister, Narendra Modi, is the son of a poor tea seller and has long set his sights on the highest elected office in the world’s largest democracy.

The top official in Gujarat state for over a decade, Modi often contrasted his humble roots with the posh background of his main rival, 43-year-old Rahul Gandhi, heir to India’s most powerful political dynasty.

As the career politician led his Bharatiya Janata Party through a dazzling, high-tech election campaign, Modi called voters’ attention to his mother riding a three-wheeled auto-rickshaw to cast her ballot earlier this month.

“I am the chief minister of a prosperous state … And my 90-year-old mother goes to vote in an auto-rickshaw,” the white-bearded Modi boasted, punching a fist through the air as he claimed his place by India’s poor masses.

But despite playing up his folksy, common-man credentials, the 63-year-old Modi is widely seen as the darling of India’s corporate world and a decisive, 21st-century administrator expected to revive job creation and economic growth.

Modi’s singular message on the economy has helped him ignore or beat back criticism of his personal life — including his strong links to a right-wing Hindu nationalist group, as well as his four-decade marriage to a retired school teacher he had never mentioned publicly until last month.

Born in 1950, Modi will be India’s first prime minister born after the country’s violent 1947 partition and independence from imperial Britain.

His rise marks a paradigm shift for the secular democracy after decades of welfare policies that have emphasized lifting the country’s impoverished. Modi has extolled the merits of trickle-down economics through industrialization.

He also has maintained strong links with the conservative, paramilitary Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, which some describe as neo-fascist.

The RSS “will have a substantial check on Modi. He is not going to be entirely his own man,” said political analyst Kamal Mitra Chenoy of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

Modi grew up in a poor village family, helping his father sell tea. At 18, he was married to a girl his parents had chosen five years earlier. The union never stuck, and Modi soon left to travel for several years before returning and joining the RSS as a propagandist in his early 20s. He and his wife never had children.

Having studied political science in Indian universities, Modi formally entered politics in 1985 with the BJP, regarded as the political arm of the RSS. He quickly gained a reputation as a talented orator and a workaholic, campaigning for the BJP in several elections before being chosen as Gujarat’s highest elected official in 2001.

Modi and the BJP have been strategizing this campaign for years, launching Twitter accounts and promoting Gujarat’s economy as one to emulate for development and modernity, though several Indian states topped Gujarat’s average annual growth of 8.68 per cent from 2001 to 2010.

Backed by enormous corporate wealth, Modi and the BJP ran an aggressive, tech-savvy campaign, sending out dozens of daily messages on social media sites and even having Modi appear virtually as a hologram at campaign events. Indian media quickly gave him the celebrity-like nickname of “NaMo.”

“Wherever I went it was a delight to interact with local people. Social media also helped me understand their sentiments,” he said in a Twitter message after balloting ended Monday.

Modi’s links with the RSS, however, have alarmed liberals and secular critics who say he is not fit to lead a highly diverse nation roiling with communal tensions between castes, clans and religious groups.

Modi has also been dogged by criticism for failing to apologize for 2002 religious riots in Gujarat that killed at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, during his tenure as chief minister. Modi has denied any role in the violence, and the Supreme Court said there was no case to bring against him. But suspicions were enough for the United States to refuse him a visa in 2005, while Britain only ended its diplomatic boycott on Modi in 2012.

Modi stoked those worries again last week, as he railed against Muslim migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

“You can see how Modi is tricky, but he’s a quick learner and quick on his feet,” Chenoy said. “Modi’s idea of a statesman will be as a tough individual.”

Analysts say Modi’s success comes down to his ability to connect with the common man. He repeatedly has emphasized his origins outside New Delhi — and outside the country’s elite classes. He usually speaks only Hindi, though he is reportedly working on his English now.

He constantly hammed it up for TV cameras while wearing colorful, traditional hats from various regions, always smiling.

“The kind of hope he’s aroused is unprecedented. He’ll have to deliver very quickly,” political analyst Neerja Chowdhury said.

Related stories:

——

Follow Katy Daigle on Twitter at http://twitter.com/katydaigle

07:52ET 16-05-14

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

crime-British Columbia

Three arrested after Surrey RCMP-involved shooting in Newton

AMY REID SURREY NOW NEWTON — Three people are in custody following a police-involved shooting in Newton Friday afternoon. Shortly after noon, plainclothes officers attempted to…
Continue Reading »

Immigrant-language test

Woman loses Canadian citizenship for failing language, knowledge tests after it was granted in error

ADRIAN HUMPHREYS POSTMEDIA NEWS A would-be Canadian who received a grade of zero out of six on her citizenship language test and four out of…
Continue Reading »

India-Kashmir-Obama

Pakistani PM Sharif asks Obama to play role for resolution of Kashmir issue

MUNIR AHMED THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ISLAMABAD — Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday asked the U.S. President Barack Obama to play a role in…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

crime-British Columbia

Three arrested after Surrey RCMP-involved shooting in Newton

AMY REID SURREY NOW NEWTON — Three people are in custody following a police-involved shooting in Newton Friday afternoon. Shortly after noon, plainclothes officers attempted to…
Continue Reading »

Whitecaps2

Spice Sports: Whitecaps announce new USL PRO team!

GOPI AND THE GORA FOR VANCOUVER DESI An exciting announcement was made this morning at UBC’s Gerald McGavin Rugby Centre. Soccer fans in Vancouver will…
Continue Reading »

Immigrant-language test

Woman loses Canadian citizenship for failing language, knowledge tests after it was granted in error

ADRIAN HUMPHREYS POSTMEDIA NEWS A would-be Canadian who received a grade of zero out of six on her citizenship language test and four out of…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

desi bride loaded in gold

Indian bride draws flak for wearing $700,000 jewellery at her wedding

CEN AGENCY An Indian sweet maker made sure his daughter was the golden girl at her upcoming wedding by covering her in gold jewellery worth…
Continue Reading »

India

Video: Bear mauls Indian farmer to death, injures second man (Warning: Graphic Content)

VANCOUVER DESI An Indian farmer was mauled to death and another left seriously injured after a terrifying and unusual bear attack in Karnataka on Monday,…
Continue Reading »

Spiderman

Video: India’s real-life Spiderman scales buildings with bare hands

VANCOUVER DESI A 27-year-old man in India who is nicknamed the “real-life Spiderman” has become one of Karnataka’s leading tourist attractions for his ability to effortlessly…
Continue Reading »

desi victim

Victim of ski accident to open spinal-cord recovery centre in Richmond (w/video)

NICK EAGLAND VANCOUVER DESI Dhruv Kapoor realized he was in deep trouble as he barrelled down a ski run in Russell, Man., on an icy…
Continue Reading »

op-ed

Aziza Sindhu: How do you grieve for a tyrant father?

AZIZA SINDHU CALGARY HERALD My father, Salim M. Sindhu, passed away on Nov. 10. As a child, I wished he smiled at me, as a…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Bollywood

Aamir Khan and Deepika Padukone the next hit Bollywood couple?

HINDUSTAN TIMES Bollywood actors Aamir Khan and Deepika Padukone are known to deliver hits on their shoulders alone. Now, audiences may be in for a…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood sex video

I can’t take nonsense: Sonakshi Sinha on why she lashed out at KRK on Twitter (w/gallery)

HINDUSTAN TIMES Some Bollywood stars tend to be diplomatic about controversies, and choose not to react. Sonakshi Sinha isn’t one of them. Last month, she…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood wedding reception

Photos: Khan-tastic wedding reception for Salman’s sister Arpita

VANCOUVER DESI While celebrities have reached the wedding reception for Salman Khans sister Arpita and businessman Aayush Sharma to wish them their best, photos have…
Continue Reading »