Narendra Damodardas Modi (Gujarati pronunciation: [ˈnəɾendrə dɑmodəɾˈdɑs ˈmodiː] (listen); born 17 September 1950) is an Indian politician serving as the 14th and current Prime Minister of India since 2014. He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014 and is the Member of Parliament for Varanasi. Modi is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation. He is the first prime minister outside of the Indian National Congress to win two consecutive terms with a full majority and the second to complete five years in office after Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Born to a Gujarati family in Vadnagar, Modi helped his father sell tea as a child and has said he later ran his own stall. He was introduced to the RSS at the age of eight, beginning a long association with the organisation. Modi left home after finishing high-school in part due to an arranged marriage to Jashodaben Chimanlal, which he abandoned and publicly acknowledged only many decades later. Modi travelled around India for two years and visited a number of religious centres before returning to Gujarat. In 1971 he became a full-time worker for the RSS. During the state of emergency imposed across the country in 1975, Modi was forced to go into hiding. The RSS assigned him to the BJP in 1985 and he held several positions within the party hierarchy until 2001, rising to the rank of general secretary.
Modi was appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001 due to Keshubhai Patel's failing health and poor public image following the earthquake in Bhuj. Modi was elected to the legislative assembly soon after. His administration has been considered complicit in the 2002 Gujarat riots[a] or otherwise criticised for its handling of it. A Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team found no evidence to initiate prosecution proceedings against Modi personally.[b] His policies as chief minister, credited with encouraging economic growth, have received praise. His administration has been criticised for failing to significantly improve health, poverty and education indices in the state.[c]
Modi led the BJP in the 2014 general election which gave the party a majority in the Indian lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, the first time for any single party since 1984. Modi's administration has tried to raise foreign direct investment in the Indian economy and reduced spending on healthcare and social welfare programmes. Modi has attempted to improve efficiency in the bureaucracy; he has centralised power by abolishing the Planning Commission. He began a high-profile sanitation campaign and weakened or abolished environmental and labour laws. He initiated a controversial demonetisation of high-denomination banknotes.
Following his party's victory in the 2019 general election, his administration revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. His administration also introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act, which resulted in widespread protests across the country. Described as engineering a political realignment towards right-wing politics, Modi remains a figure of controversy domestically and internationally over his Hindu nationalist beliefs and his role during the 2002 Gujarat riots, cited as evidence of an exclusionary social agenda.[d] Under his tenure, India has experienced democratic backsliding.
Early life and education
Narendra Modi was born on 17 September 1950 to a family of grocers in Vadnagar, Mehsana district, Bombay State (present-day Gujarat). He was the third of six children born to Damodardas Mulchand Modi (c. 1915–1989) and Hiraben Modi (born c. 1920). Modi's family belonged to the Modh-Ghanchi-Teli (oil-presser) community, which is categorised as an Other Backward Class by the Indian government.
As a child, Modi helped his father sell tea at the Vadnagar railway station, and said that he later ran a tea stall with his brother near a bus terminus. Modi completed his higher secondary education in Vadnagar in 1967, where a teacher described him as an average student and a keen debater, with interest in theatre. Modi had an early gift for rhetoric in debates, and his teachers and students noted this. Modi preferred playing larger-than-life characters in theatrical productions, which has influenced his political image.
When eight years old, Modi discovered the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and began attending its local shakhas (training sessions). There, Modi met Lakshmanrao Inamdar, popularly known as Vakil Saheb, who inducted him as a balswayamsevak (junior cadet) in the RSS and became his political mentor. While Modi was training with the RSS, he also met Vasant Gajendragadkar and Nathalal Jaghda, Bharatiya Jana Sangh leaders who were founding members of the BJP's Gujarat unit in 1980.
Also in Narendra Modi's childhood, in a custom traditional to his caste, his family arranged a betrothal to a girl, Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi, leading to their marriage when they were teenagers. Sometime thereafter, he abandoned the further marital obligations implicit in the custom, and left home, the couple going on to lead separate lives, neither marrying again, and the marriage itself remaining unmentioned in Modi's public pronouncements for many decades. In April 2014, shortly before the national elections that swept him to power, Modi publicly affirmed that he was married and his spouse was Jashodaben; the couple has remained married, but estranged.
Modi spent the ensuing two years travelling across Northern and North-eastern India, though few details of where he went have emerged. In interviews, Modi has described visiting Hindu ashrams founded by Swami Vivekananda: the Belur Math near Kolkata, followed by the Advaita Ashrama in Almora and the Ramakrishna Mission in Rajkot. Modi remained only a short time at each, since he lacked the required college education. Vivekananda has been described as a large influence in Modi's life.
In the early summer of 1968, Modi reached the Belur Math but was turned away, after which Modi wandered through Calcutta, West Bengal and Assam, stopping in Siliguri and Guwahati. Modi then went to the Ramakrishna Ashram in Almora, where he was again rejected, before travelling back to Gujarat via Delhi and Rajasthan in 1968–69. Sometime in late 1969 or early 1970, Modi returned to Vadnagar for a brief visit before leaving again for Ahmedabad. There, Modi lived with his uncle, working in the latter's canteen at the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation.
In Ahmedabad, Modi renewed his acquaintance with Inamdar, who was based at the Hedgewar Bhavan (RSS headquarters) in the city. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, he stopped working for his uncle and became a full-time pracharak (campaigner) for the RSS, working under Inamdar. Shortly before the war, Modi took part in a non-violent protest against the Indian government in New Delhi, for which he was arrested; this has been cited as a reason for Inamdar electing to mentor him. Many years later Modi would co-author a biography of Inamdar, published in 2001.
In 1978 Modi received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from School of Open Learning at University of Delhi, graduating with a third class. Five years later, in 1983, he received a Master of Arts degree in political science from Gujarat University, graduating with a first class as an external distance learning student.
Early political career
In June 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India which lasted until 1977. During this period, known as "The Emergency", many of her political opponents were jailed and opposition groups were banned. Modi was appointed general secretary of the "Gujarat Lok Sangharsh Samiti", an RSS committee co-ordinating opposition to the Emergency in Gujarat. Shortly afterwards, the RSS was banned. Modi was forced to go underground in Gujarat and frequently travelled in disguise to avoid arrest. He became involved in printing pamphlets opposing the government, sending them to Delhi and organising demonstrations. Modi was also involved with creating a network of safe houses for individuals wanted by the government, and in raising funds for political refugees and activists. During this period, Modi wrote a book in Gujarati, Sangharsh Ma Gujarat (In The Struggles of Gujarat), describing events during the Emergency. Among the people he met in this role was trade unionist and socialist activist George Fernandes, as well as several other national political figures. In his travels during the Emergency, Modi was often forced to move in disguise, once dressing as a monk, and once as a Sikh.
Modi became an RSS sambhag pracharak (regional organiser) in 1978, overseeing RSS activities in the areas of Surat and Vadodara, and in 1979 he went to work for the RSS in Delhi, where he was put to work researching and writing the RSS's version of the history of the Emergency. He returned to Gujarat a short while later, and was assigned by the RSS to the BJP in 1985. In 1987 Modi helped organise the BJP's campaign in the Ahmedabad municipal election, which the BJP won comfortably; Modi's planning has been described as the reason for that result by biographers. After L. K. Advani became president of the BJP in 1986, the RSS decided to place its members in important positions within the BJP; Modi's work during the Ahmedabad election led to his selection for this role, and Modi was elected organising secretary of the BJP's Gujarat unit later in 1987.
Modi rose within the party and was named a member of the BJP's National Election Committee in 1990, helping organise L. K. Advani's 1990 Ram Rath Yatra in 1990 and Murli Manohar Joshi's 1991–92 Ekta Yatra (Journey for Unity). However, he took a brief break from politics in 1992, instead establishing a school in Ahmedabad; friction with Shankersingh Vaghela, a BJP MP from Gujarat at the time, also played a part in this decision. Modi returned to electoral politics in 1994, partly at the insistence of Advani, and as party secretary, Modi's electoral strategy was considered central to the BJP victory in the 1995 state assembly elections. In November of that year Modi was elected BJP national secretary and transferred to New Delhi, where he assumed responsibility for party activities in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The following year, Shankersinh Vaghela, a prominent BJP leader from Gujarat, defected to the Indian National Congress (Congress, INC) after losing his parliamentary seat in the Lok Sabha elections. Modi, on the selection committee for the 1998 Assembly elections in Gujarat, favoured supporters of BJP leader Keshubhai Patel over those supporting Vaghela to end factional division in the party. His strategy was credited as key to the BJP winning an overall majority in the 1998 elections, and Modi was promoted to BJP general secretary (organisation) in May of that year.
Chief Minister of Gujarat
In 2001, Keshubhai Patel's health was failing and the BJP lost a few state assembly seats in by-elections. Allegations of abuse of power, corruption and poor administration were made, and Patel's standing had been damaged by his administration's handling of the earthquake in Bhuj in 2001. The BJP national leadership sought a new candidate for the chief ministership, and Modi, who had expressed misgivings about Patel's administration, was chosen as a replacement. Although BJP leader L. K. Advani did not want to ostracise Patel and was concerned about Modi's lack of experience in government, Modi declined an offer to be Patel's deputy chief minister, telling Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he was "going to be fully responsible for Gujarat or not at all". On 3 October 2001 he replaced Patel as Chief Minister of Gujarat, with the responsibility of preparing the BJP for the December 2002 elections. Modi was sworn in as Chief Minister on 7 October 2001, and entered the Gujarat state legislature on 24 February 2002 by winning a by-election to the Rajkot – II constituency, defeating Ashwin Mehta of the INC by 14,728 votes.
2002 Gujarat riots
On 27 February 2002, a train with several hundred passengers burned near Godhra, killing approximately 60 people.[e] The train carried a large number of Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya after a religious ceremony at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid. In making a public statement after the incident, Modi declared it a terrorist attack planned and orchestrated by local Muslims. The next day, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a bandh across the state. Riots began during the bandh, and anti-Muslim violence spread through Gujarat. The government's decision to move the bodies of the train victims from Godhra to Ahmedabad further inflamed the violence. The state government stated later that 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed. Independent sources put the death toll at over 2000. Approximately 150,000 people were driven to refugee camps. Numerous women and children were among the victims; the violence included mass rapes and mutilations of women.
The government of Gujarat itself is generally considered by scholars to have been complicit in the riots, and has otherwise received heavy criticism for its handling of the situation. Several scholars have described the violence as a pogrom, while others have called it an example of state terrorism. Summarising academic views on the subject, Martha Nussbaum said: "There is by now a broad consensus that the Gujarat violence was a form of ethnic cleansing, that in many ways it was premeditated, and that it was carried out with the complicity of the state government and officers of the law." The Modi government imposed a curfew in 26 major cities, issued shoot-at-sight orders and called for the army to patrol the streets, but was unable to prevent the violence from escalating. The president of the state unit of the BJP expressed support for the bandh, despite such actions being illegal at the time. State officials later prevented riot victims from leaving the refugee camps, and the camps were often unable to meet the needs of those living there. Muslim victims of the riots were subject to further discrimination when the state government announced that compensation for Muslim victims would be half of that offered to Hindus, although this decision was later reversed after the issue was taken to court. During the riots, police officers often did not intervene in situations where they were able. In 2012 Maya Kodnani, a minister in Modi's government from 2007 to 2009, was convicted by a lower court for participation in the Naroda Patiya massacre during the 2002 riots. Although Modi's government had announced that it would seek the death penalty for Kodnani on appeal, it reversed its decision in 2013. On 21 April 2018, the Gujarat High Court acquitted Kodnani while noting that there were several shortfalls in the investigation.
Modi's personal involvement in the 2002 events has continued to be debated. During the riots, Modi said that "What is happening is a chain of action and reaction." Later in 2002, Modi said the way in which he had handled the media was his only regret regarding the episode. In March 2008, the Supreme Court reopened several cases related to the 2002 riots, including that of the Gulbarg Society massacre, and established a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the issue. In response to a petition from Zakia Jafri (widow of Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre), in April 2009 the court also asked the SIT to investigate the issue of Modi's complicity in the killings. The SIT questioned Modi in March 2010; in May, it presented to the court a report finding no evidence against him. In July 2011, the court-appointed amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran submitted his final report to the court. Contrary to the SIT's position, he said that Modi could be prosecuted based on the available evidence. The Supreme Court gave the matter to the magistrate's court. The SIT examined Ramachandran's report, and in March 2012 submitted its final report, asking for the case to be closed. Zakia Jaffri filed a protest petition in response. In December 2013 the magistrate's court rejected the protest petition, accepting the SIT's finding that there was no evidence against the chief minister.
In the aftermath of the violence there were widespread calls for Modi to resign as chief minister from within and outside the state, including from leaders of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Telugu Desam Party (allies in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance coalition), and opposition parties stalled Parliament over the issue. Modi submitted his resignation at the April 2002 BJP national executive meeting in Goa, but it was not accepted. His cabinet had an emergency meeting on 19 July 2002, after which it offered its resignation to the Gujarat Governor S. S. Bhandari, and the state assembly was dissolved. Despite opposition from the election commissioner, who said that a number of voters were still displaced, Modi succeeded in advancing the election to December 2002. In the elections, the BJP won 127 seats in the 182-member assembly. Although Modi later denied it, he made significant use of anti-Muslim rhetoric during his campaign, and the BJP profited from religious polarisation among the voters. He won the Maninagar constituency, receiving 113,589 of 154,981 votes and defeating INC candidate Yatin Oza by 75,333 votes. On 22 December 2002, Bhandari swore Modi in for a second term. Modi framed the criticism of his government for human rights violations as an attack upon Gujarati pride, a strategy which led to the BJP winning two-thirds of the seats in the state assembly.
During Modi's second term the rhetoric of the government shifted from Hindutva to Gujarat's economic development. Modi curtailed the influence of Sangh Parivar organisations such as the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), entrenched in the state after the decline of Ahmedabad's textile industry, and dropped Gordhan Zadafia (an ally of former Sangh co-worker and VHP state chief Praveen Togadia) from his cabinet. When the BKS staged a farmers' demonstration Modi ordered their eviction from state-provided houses, and his decision to demolish 200 illegal temples in Gandhinagar deepened the rift with the VHP. Sangh organisations were no longer consulted or informed in advance about Modi's administrative decisions. Nonetheless, Modi retained connections with some Hindu nationalists. Modi wrote a foreword to a textbook by Dinanath Batra released in 2014, which stated that ancient India possessed technologies including test-tube babies.
Modi's relationship with Muslims continued to attract criticism. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (who asked Modi for tolerance in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat violence and supported his resignation as chief minister) distanced himself, reaching out to North Indian Muslims before the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. After the elections Vajpayee called the violence in Gujarat a reason for the BJP's electoral defeat and said it had been a mistake to leave Modi in office after the riots.
Questions about Modi's relationship with Muslims were also raised by many Western nations during his tenure as chief minister. Modi was barred from entering the United States by the State Department, in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission on International Religious Freedom formed under the aegis of the International Religious Freedom Act, the only person denied a US visa under this law. The UK and the European Union refused to admit him because of what they saw as his role in the riots. As Modi rose to prominence in India, the UK and the EU lifted their bans in October 2012 and March 2013, respectively, and after his election as prime minister he was invited to Washington.
During the run-up to the 2007 assembly elections and the 2009 general election, the BJP intensified its rhetoric on terrorism. In July 2006, Modi criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh " for his reluctance to revive anti-terror legislation" such as the 2002 Prevention of Terrorism Act. He asked the national government to allow states to invoke tougher laws in the wake of the 2006 Mumbai train bombings. In 2007 Modi authored Karmayog, a 101-page booklet discussing manual scavenging. In it, Modi argued that scavenging was a "spiritual experience" for Valmiks, a sub-caste of Dalits. However, this book was not circulated that time because of the election code of conduct. After the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Modi held a meeting to discuss the security of Gujarat's 1,600-kilometre (990 mi)-long coastline, resulting in government authorisation of 30 high-speed surveillance boats. In July 2007 Modi completed 2,063 consecutive days as chief minister of Gujarat, making him the longest-serving holder of that post, and the BJP won 122 of 182 state-assembly seats in that year's election.
As Chief Minister, Modi favoured privatisation and small government, which was at odds with the philosophy of the RSS, usually described as anti-privatisation and anti-globalisation. His policies during his second term have been credited with reducing corruption in the state. He established financial and technology parks in Gujarat and during the 2007 Vibrant Gujarat summit, real-estate investment deals worth ₹6.6 trillion were signed.
The governments led by Patel and Modi supported NGOs and communities in the creation of groundwater-conservation projects. By December 2008, 500,000 structures had been built, of which 113,738 were check dams, which helped recharge the aquifers beneath them. Sixty of the 112 tehsils which had depleted the water table in 2004 had regained their normal groundwater levels by 2010. As a result, the state's production of genetically modified cotton increased to become the largest in India. The boom in cotton production and its semi-arid land use led to Gujarat's agricultural sector growing at an average rate of 9.6 percent from 2001 to 2007. Public irrigation measures in central and southern Gujarat, such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam, were less successful. The Sardar Sarovar project only irrigated 4–6% of the area intended. Nonetheless, from 2001 to 2010 Gujarat recorded an agricultural growth rate of 10.97 percent – the highest of any state. However, sociologists have pointed out that the growth rate under the 1992–97 INC government was 12.9 percent. In 2008 Modi offered land in Gujarat to Tata Motors to set up a plant manufacturing the Nano after a popular agitation had forced the company to move out of West Bengal. Several other companies followed the Tata to Gujarat.
The Modi government finished the process of bringing electricity to every village in Gujarat that its predecessor had almost completed. Modi significantly changed the state's system of power distribution, greatly impacting farmers. Gujarat expanded the Jyotigram Yojana scheme, in which agricultural electricity was separated from other rural electricity; the agricultural electricity was rationed to fit scheduled irrigation demands, reducing its cost. Although early protests by farmers ended when those who benefited found that their electricity supply had stabilised, according to an assessment study corporations and large farmers benefited from the policy at the expense of small farmers and labourers.
A contentious debate surrounds the assessment of Gujarat's economic development during Modi's tenure as chief minister. The state's GDP growth rate averaged 10% during Modi's tenure, a value similar to other highly industrialised states, and above that of the country as a whole. Gujarat also had a high rate of economic growth in the 1990s, before Modi took office, and scholars have stated that growth did not accelerate during Modi's tenure. Under Modi, Gujarat topped the World Bank's "ease of doing business" rankings among Indian states for two consecutive years. In 2013, Gujarat was ranked first among Indian states for "economic freedom" by a report measuring governance, growth, citizens' rights and labour and business regulation among the country's 20 largest states. In the later years of Modi's government, Gujarat's economic growth was frequently used as an argument to counter allegations of communalism. Tax breaks for businesses were easier to obtain in Gujarat than in other states, as was land. Modi's policies to make Gujarat attractive for investment included the creation of Special Economic Zones, where labour laws were greatly weakened.
Despite its growth rate, Gujarat had a relatively poor record on human development, poverty relief, nutrition and education during Modi's tenure. In 2013, Gujarat ranked 13th in the country with respect to rates of poverty and 21st in education. Nearly 45 percent of children under five were underweight and 23 percent were undernourished, putting the state in the "alarming" category on the India State Hunger Index. A study by UNICEF and the Indian government found that Gujarat under Modi had a poor record with respect to immunisation in children.
Over the decade from 2001 to 2011, Gujarat did not change its position relative to the rest of the country with respect to poverty and female literacy, remaining near the median of the 29 Indian states. It showed only a marginal improvement in rates of infant mortality, and its position with respect to individual consumption declined. With respect to the quality of education in government schools, the state ranked below most Indian states. The social policies of the government generally did not benefit Muslims, Dalits, and Adivasis, and generally increased social inequalities. Development in Gujarat was generally limited to the urban middle class, and citizens in rural areas or from lower castes were increasingly marginalised. In 2013 the state ranked 10th of 21 Indian states in the Human Development Index. Under Modi, the state government spent far less than the national average on education and healthcare.
Despite the BJP's shift away from explicit Hindutva, Modi's election campaign in 2007 and 2012 contained elements of Hindu nationalism. Modi only attended Hindu religious ceremonies, and had prominent associations with Hindu religious leaders. During his 2012 campaign he twice refused to wear articles of clothing gifted by Muslim leaders. He did, however, maintain relations with Dawoodi Bohra. His campaign included references to issues known to cause religious polarisation, including to Afzal Guru and the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh. The BJP did not nominate any Muslim candidates for the assembly election of 2012. During the 2012 campaign, Modi attempted to identify himself with the state of Gujarat, a strategy similar to that used by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, and projected himself as protecting Gujarat against persecution by the rest of India.
While campaigning for the 2012 assembly elections, Modi made extensive use of holograms and other technologies allowing him to reach a large number of people, something he would repeat in the 2014 general election. In the 2012 Gujarat Legislative Assembly elections, Modi won the constituency of Maninagar by 86,373 votes over Shweta Bhatt, the INC candidate and wife of Sanjiv Bhatt. The BJP won 115 of the 182 seats, continuing its majority during his tenure and allowing the party to form the government (as it had in Gujarat since 1995). In later by-elections the BJP won four more assembly seats and two Lok Sabha seats held by the INC, although Modi did not campaign for its candidates. In 2013, the Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania cancelled a keynote video-conference speech by Modi following protests by Indian-Americans. After his election as prime minister, Modi resigned as the chief minister and as an MLA from Maninagar on 21 May 2014. Anandiben Patel succeeded him as the chief minister.
Indian general elections
In September 2013 Modi was named the BJP's candidate for prime minister in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Several BJP leaders expressed opposition to Modi's candidature, including BJP founding member L. K. Advani, who cited concern with leaders who were "concerned with their personal agendas". Modi played a dominant role in the BJP's election campaign. Several people who voted for the BJP stated that if Modi had not been the prime-ministerial candidate, they would have voted for another party. The focus on Modi as an individual was unusual for a BJP election campaign. The election was described as a referendum on Narendra Modi.
During the campaign, Modi focused on the corruption scandals under the previous INC government, and played on his image as a politician who had created a high rate of GDP growth in Gujarat. Modi projected himself as a person who could bring about "development," without focus on any specific policies. His message found support among young Indians and among middle-class citizens. The BJP under Modi was able to downplay concerns about the protection of religious minorities and Modi's commitment to secularism, areas in which he had previously received criticism. Prior to the election Modi's image in the media had centered around his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, but during the campaign the BJP was able to shift this to a focus on Modi's neoliberal ideology and the Gujarat model of development, although Hindutva remained a significant part of its campaign. The BJP's campaign was assisted by its wide influence in the media. Modi's campaign blitz cost approximately ₹50 billion (US$700 million), and received extensive financial support from corporate donors. In addition to more conventional campaign methods, Modi made extensive use of social media, and addressed more than 1000 rallies via hologram appearances.
The BJP won 31% of the vote, and more than doubled its tally in the Lok Sabha to 282, becoming the first party to win a majority of seats on its own since 1984. Voter dissatisfaction with the INC, as well as with regional parties in North India, was another reason for the success of the BJP, as was the support from the RSS. In states such as Uttar Pradesh in which the BJP performed well, it drew exceptionally high support from upper-caste Hindus, although the 10 percent of Muslim votes won was more than it had won before. It performed particularly well in parts of the country that had recently experienced violence between Hindus and Muslims. The magnitude of the BJP's victory led many commentators to say that the election constituted a political realignment away from progressive parties and towards the right-wing. Modi's tweet announcing his victory was described as being emblematic of the political realignment away from a secular, socialist state towards capitalism and Hindu cultural nationalism.
Modi himself was a candidate for the Lok Sabha in two constituencies: Varanasi and Vadodara. He won in both constituencies, defeating Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi and Madhusudan Mistry of the INC in Vadodara by 570,128 votes. Modi, who was unanimously elected leader of the BJP, was appointed prime minister by India's president. To comply with the law that an MP cannot represent more than one constituency, he vacated the Vadodara seat.
Governance and other initiatives
Modi was sworn in as the Prime Minister of India on 26 May 2014. He became the first Prime Minister born after India's independence from the British Empire. His first year as prime minister saw significant centralisation of power relative to previous administrations. Modi's efforts at centralisation have been linked to an increase in the number of senior administration officials resigning their positions. Initially lacking a majority in the Rajya Sabha, or upper house of Indian Parliament, Modi passed a number of ordinances to enact his policies, leading to further centralisation of power. The government also passed a bill increasing the control that it had over the appointment of judges, and reducing that of the judiciary.
In December 2014 Modi abolished the Planning Commission, replacing it with the National Institution for Transforming India, or NITI Aayog. The move had the effect of greatly centralising the power previously with the planning commission in the person of the prime minister. The planning commission had received heavy criticism in previous years for creating inefficiency in the government, and of not filling its role of improving social welfare: however, since the economic liberalisation of the 1990s, it had been the major government body responsible for measures related to social justice.
The Modi government launched investigations by the Intelligence Bureau against numerous civil society organisations and foreign non-governmental organisations in the first year of the administration. The investigations, on the grounds that these organisations were slowing economic growth, was criticised as a witchhunt. International humanitarian aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres was among the groups that were put under pressure. Other organisations affected included the Sierra Club and Avaaz. Cases of sedition were filed against individuals criticising the government. This led to discontent within the BJP regarding Modi's style of functioning and drew comparisons to the governing style of Indira Gandhi.
Modi repealed 1,200 obsolete laws in first three years as prime minister; a total of 1,301 such laws had been repealed by previous governments over a span of 64 years. He started a monthly radio programme titled "Mann Ki Baat" on 3 October 2014. Modi also launched the Digital India programme, with the goal of ensuring that government services are available electronically, building infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet access to rural areas, boosting manufacturing of electronic goods in the country, and promoting digital literacy.
Modi launched Ujjwala scheme to provide free LPG connection to rural households. The scheme led to an increase in LPG consumption by 56% in 2019 as compared to 2014. In 2019, a law was passed to provide 10% reservation to Economically weaker sections.
He was again sworn in as Prime minister on 30 May 2019. On 30 July 2019, Parliament of India declared the practice of Triple Talaq as illegal, unconstitutional and made it punishable act from 1 August 2019 which is deemed to be in effect from 19 September 2018. On 5 August 2019, the government moved resolution to scrap Article 370 in the Rajya Sabha, and also reorganize the state with Jammu and Kashmir serving as one of the union territory and Ladakh region separated out as a separate union territory. In 2019, Ayodhya dispute was resolved. The Supreme Court ordered the land to be handed over to a trust to build the Hindu temple. It also ordered the government to give alternate 5 acre land to Sunni Waqf Board for the purpose of building a mosque.
The economic policies of Modi's government focused on privatisation and liberalisation of the economy, based on a neoliberal framework. Modi liberalised India's foreign direct investment policies, allowing more foreign investment in several industries, including in defence and the railways. Other proposed reforms included making it harder for workers to form unions and easier for employers to hire and fire them; some of these proposals were dropped after protests. The reforms drew strong opposition from unions: on 2 September 2015, eleven of the country's largest unions went on strike, including one affiliated with the BJP. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, a constituent of the Sangh Parivar, stated that the underlying motivation of labour reforms favoured corporations over labourers.
The funds dedicated to poverty reduction programmes and social welfare measures were greatly decreased by the Modi administration. The money spent on social programmes declined from 14.6% of GDP during the Congress government to 12.6% during Modi's first year in office. Spending on health and family welfare declined by 15%, and on primary and secondary education by 16%. The budgetary allocation for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, or the "education for all" programme, declined by 22%. The government also lowered corporate taxes, abolished the wealth tax, increased sales taxes, and reduced customs duties on gold, and jewellery. In October 2014, the Modi government deregulated diesel prices.
In September 2014, Modi introduced the Make in India initiative to encourage foreign companies to manufacture products in India, with the goal of turning the country into a global manufacturing hub. Supporters of economic liberalisation supported the initiative, while critics argued it would allow foreign corporations to capture a greater share of the Indian market. Modi's administration passed a land-reform bill that allowed it to acquire private agricultural land without conducting a social impact assessment, and without the consent of the farmers who owned it. The bill was passed via an executive order after it faced opposition in parliament, but was eventually allowed to lapse. Modi's government put in place the Goods and Services Tax, the biggest tax reform in the country since independence. It subsumed around 17 different taxes and became effective from 1 July 2017.
In his first cabinet decision, Modi set up a team to investigate black money. On 9 November 2016, the government demonetised ₹500 and ₹1000 banknotes, with the stated intention of curbing corruption, black money, the use of counterfeit currency, and terrorism. The move led to severe cash shortages, a steep decline in the Indian stock indices BSE SENSEX and NIFTY 50, and sparked widespread protests throughout the country. Several deaths were linked to the rush to exchange cash. In the subsequent year, the number of income tax returns filed for individuals rose by 25%, and the number of digital transactions increased steeply.
Over the first four years of Modi's premiership, India's GDP grew at an average rate of 7.23%, higher than the rate of 6.39% under the previous government. The level of income inequality increased, while an internal government report said that in 2017, unemployment had increased to its highest level in 45 years. The loss of jobs was attributed to the 2016 demonetisation, and to the effects of the Goods and Services Tax.
Health and sanitation
In his first year as prime minister, Modi reduced the amount of money spent by the central government on healthcare. The Modi government launched New Health Policy (NHP) in January 2015. The policy did not increase the government's spending on healthcare, instead emphasising the role of private healthcare organisations. This represented a shift away from the policy of the previous Congress government, which had supported programmes to assist public health goals, including reducing child and maternal mortality rates. The National Health Mission, which included public health programmes targeted at these indices received nearly 20% less funds in 2015 than in the previous year. 15 national health programmes, including those aimed at controlling tobacco use and supporting healthcare for the elderly, were merged with the National Health Mission. In its budget for the second year after it took office, the Modi government reduced healthcare spending by 15%. The healthcare budget for the following year rose by 19%. The budget was viewed positively by private insurance providers. Public health experts criticised its emphasis on the role of private healthcare providers, and suggested that it represented a shift away from public health facilities. The healthcare budget rose by 11.5% in 2018; the change included an allocation of 2000 crore for a government-funded health insurance program, and a decrease in the budget of the National Health Mission. The government introduced stricter packaging laws for tobacco which requires 85% of the packet size to be covered by pictorial warnings. An article in the medical journal Lancet stated that the country "might have taken a few steps back in public health" under Modi. In 2018 Modi launched the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, a government health insurance scheme intended to insure 500 million people. 100,000 people had signed up by October 2018.
Modi emphasised his government's efforts at sanitation as a means of ensuring good health. On 2 October 2014, Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission ("Clean India") campaign. The stated goals of the campaign included eliminating open defecation and manual scavenging within five years. As part of the programme, the Indian government began constructing millions of toilets in rural areas and encouraging people to use them. The government also announced plans to build new sewage treatment plants. The administration plans to construct 60 million toilets by 2019. The construction projects have faced allegations of corruption, and have faced severe difficulty in getting people to use the toilets constructed for them. Sanitation cover in the country increased from 38.7% in October 2014 to 84.1% in May 2018; however, usage of the new sanitary facilities lagged behind the government's targets. In 2018, the World Health Organization stated that at least 180,000 diarrhoeal deaths were averted in rural India after the launch of the sanitation effort.
During the 2014 election campaign, the BJP sought to identify itself with political leaders known to have opposed Hindu nationalism, including B. R. Ambedkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Ram Manohar Lohia. The campaign also saw the use of rhetoric based on Hindutva by BJP leaders in certain states. Communal tensions were played upon especially in Uttar Pradesh and the states of Northeast India. A proposal for the controversial Uniform Civil Code was a part of the BJP's election manifesto.
The activities of a number of Hindu nationalist organisations increased in scope after Modi's election as Prime Minister, sometimes with the support of the government. These activities included a Hindu religious conversion programme, a campaign against the alleged Islamic practice of "Love Jihad", and attempts to celebrate Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, by members of the right wing Hindu Mahasabha. Officials in the government, including the Home Minister, defended the conversion programmes. Modi refused to remove a government minister from her position after a popular outcry resulted from her referring to religious minorities as "bastards." Commentators have suggested, however, that the violence was perpetrated by radical Hindu nationalists to undercut the authority of Modi. Between 2015 and 2018, Human Rights Watch estimated that 44 people, most of them Muslim, were killed by vigilantes; the killings were described by commentators as related to attempts by BJP state governments to ban the slaughter of cows.
Links between the BJP and the RSS grew stronger under Modi. The RSS provided organisational support to the BJP's electoral campaigns, while the Modi administration appointed a number of individuals affiliated with the RSS to prominent government positions. In 2014, Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, who had previously been associated with the RSS, chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). Historians and former members of the ICHR, including those sympathetic to the BJP, questioned his credentials as a historian, and stated that the appointment was part of an agenda of cultural nationalism.
The North East Delhi riots, which left more than 40 dead and hundreds injured, were triggered by protests against a citizenship law seen by many critics as anti-Muslim and part of Modi's Hindu nationalist agenda.
Foreign policy played a relatively small role in Modi's election campaign, and did not feature prominently in the BJP's election manifesto. Modi invited all the other leaders of SAARC countries to his swearing in ceremony as prime minister. He was the first Indian prime minister to do so.
Modi's foreign policy, similarly to that of the preceding INC government, focused on improving economic ties, security, and regional relations. Modi continued Manmohan Singh's policy of "multi-alignment." The Modi administration tried to attract foreign investment in the Indian economy from several sources, especially in East Asia, with the use of slogans such as "Make in India" and "Digital India". The government also tried to improve relations with Islamic nations in the Middle East, such as Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as with Israel.
During the first few months after the election, Modi made trips to a number of different countries to further the goals of his policy, and attended the BRICS, ASEAN, and G20 summits. One of Modi's first visits as prime minister was to Nepal, during which he promised a billion USD in aid. Modi also made several overtures to the United States, including multiple visits to that country. While this was described as an unexpected development, due to the US having previously denied Modi a travel visa over his role during the 2002 Gujarat riots, it was also expected to strengthen diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries.
In 2015, the Indian parliament ratified a land exchange deal with Bangladesh about the India–Bangladesh enclaves, which had been initiated by the government of Manmohan Singh. Modi's administration gave renewed attention to India's "Look East Policy", instituted in 1991. The policy was renamed the "Act East Policy", and involved directing Indian foreign policy towards East Asia and Southeast Asia. The government signed agreements to improve land connectivity with Myanmar, through the state of Manipur. This represented a break with India's historic engagement with Myanmar, which prioritised border security over trade.
India's nominal military spending increased steadily under Modi. The military budget declined over Modi's tenure both as a fraction of GDP and when adjusted for inflation. A substantial portion of the military budget was devoted to personnel costs, leading commentators to write that the budget was constraining Indian military modernisation.
The BJP election manifesto had also promised to deal with illegal immigration into India in the Northeast, as well as to be more firm in its handling of insurgent groups. The Modi government issued a notification allowing Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist illegal immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh to legalise their residency in India. The government described the measure as being taken for humanitarian reasons but it drew criticism from several Assamese organisations.
The Modi administration negotiated a peace agreement with the largest faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCM), which was announced in August 2015. The Naga insurgency in northeast India had begun in the 1950s. The NSCM and the government had agreed to a ceasefire in 1997, but a peace accord had not previously been signed. In 2015 the government abrogated a 15-year ceasefire with the Khaplang faction of the NSCM (NSCM-K). The NSCM-K responded with a series of attacks, which killed 18 people. The Modi government carried out a raid across the border with Myanmar as a result, and labelled the NSCM-K a terrorist organisation.
Modi promised to be "tough on Pakistan" during his election campaign, and repeatedly stated that Pakistan was an exporter of terrorism. On 29 September 2016, the Indian Army stated that it had conducted a surgical strike on terror launchpads in Azad Kashmir. The Indian media claimed that up to 50 terrorists and Pakistani soldiers had been killed in the strike. Pakistan initially denied that any strikes had taken place. Subsequent reports suggested that Indian claim about the scope of the strike and the number of casualties had been exaggerated, although cross-border strikes had been carried out. In February 2019 India carried out airstrikes in Pakistan against a supposed terrorist camp. Further military skirmishes followed, including cross-border shelling and the loss of an Indian aircraft.
In naming his cabinet, Modi renamed the "Ministry of Environment and Forests" the "Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change." In the first budget of the government, the money allotted to this ministry was reduced by more than 50%. The new ministry also removed or diluted a number of laws related to environmental protection. These included no longer requiring clearance from the National Board for Wildlife for projects close to protected areas, and allowing certain projects to proceed before environmental clearance was received. The government also tried to reconstitute the Wildlife board such that it no longer had representatives from non-governmental organisations: however, this move was prevented by the Supreme Court.
Modi also relaxed or abolished a number of other environmental regulations, particularly those related to industrial activity. A government committee stated that the existing system only served to create corruption, and that the government should instead rely on the owners of industries to voluntarily inform the government about the pollution they were creating. Other changes included reducing ministry oversight on small mining projects, and no longer requiring approval from tribal councils for projects inside forested areas. In addition, Modi lifted a moratorium on new industrial activity in the most polluted areas in the countries. The changes were welcomed by businesspeople, but criticised by environmentalists.
Under the UPA government that preceded Modi's administration, field trials of Genetically Modified (GM) crops had essentially been put on hold, after protests from farmers fearing for their livelihoods. Under the Modi government these restrictions were gradually lifted. The government received some criticism for freezing the bank accounts of environmental group Greenpeace, citing financial irregularities, although a leaked government report said that the freeze had to do with Greenpeace's opposition to GM crops.
Personal life and image
In accordance with Ghanchi tradition, Modi's marriage was arranged by his parents when he was a child. He was engaged at age 13 to Jashodaben, marrying her when he was 18. They spent little time together and grew apart when Modi began two years of travel, including visits to Hindu ashrams. Reportedly, their marriage was never consummated, and he kept it a secret because otherwise he could not have become a 'pracharak' in the puritan Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Modi kept his marriage secret for most of his career. He acknowledged his wife for the first time when he filed his nomination for the 2014 general elections. Modi maintains a close relationship with his mother, Hiraben.
A vegetarian and teetotaler, Modi has a frugal lifestyle and is a workaholic and introvert. Modi's 31 August 2012 post on Google Hangouts made him the first Indian politician to interact with citizens on a live chat. Modi has also been called a fashion-icon for his signature crisply ironed, half-sleeved kurta, as well as for a suit with his name embroidered repeatedly in the pinstripes that he wore during a state visit by US President Barack Obama, which drew public and media attention and criticism. Modi's personality has been variously described by scholars and biographers as energetic, arrogant, and charismatic.
He had published a Gujarati book titled Jyotipunj in 2008, containing profiles of various RSS leaders. The longest was of M. S. Golwalkar, under whose leadership the RSS expanded and whom Modi refers to as Pujniya Shri Guruji ("Guru worthy of worship"). According to The Economic Times, his intention was to explain the workings of the RSS to his readers and to reassure RSS members that he remained ideologically aligned with them. Modi authored eight other books, mostly containing short stories for children.
The nomination of Modi for the prime ministership drew attention to his reputation as "one of contemporary India's most controversial and divisive politicians." During the 2014 election campaign the BJP projected an image of Modi as a strong, masculine leader, who would be able to take difficult decisions. Campaigns in which he has participated have focused on Modi as an individual, in a manner unusual for the BJP and RSS. Modi has relied upon his reputation as a politician able to bring about economic growth and "development". Nonetheless, his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots continues to attract criticism and controversy. Modi's hardline Hindutva philosophy and the policies adopted by his government continue to draw criticism, and have been seen as evidence of a majoritarian and exclusionary social agenda.
As a Prime Minister, Modi has received consistently high approval ratings; at the end of his first year in office, he received an overall approval rating of 87% in a Pew Research poll, with 68% of people rating him "very favorably" and 93% approving of his government. His approval rating remained largely consistent at around 74% through his second year in office, according to a nationwide poll conducted by instaVaani. At the end of his second year in office, an updated Pew Research poll showed Modi continued to receive high overall approval ratings of 81%, with 57% of those polled rating him "very favorably." At the end of his third year in office, a further Pew Research poll showed Modi with an overall approval rating of 88%, his highest yet, with 69% of people polled rating him "very favorably." A poll conducted by The Times of India in May 2017 showed 77% of the respondents rated Modi as "very good" and "good". In early 2017, a survey from Pew Research Center showed Modi to be the most popular figure in Indian politics.
Awards and recognition
Modi was named the Best Chief Minister in a 2007 nationwide survey by India Today. In March 2012, he appeared on the cover of the Asian edition of Time Magazine, one of the few Indian politicians to have done so. He was awarded Indian of the Year by CNN-IBN news network in 2014. In 2014, 2015 and 2017, he was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. He was also declared winner of the Time magazine reader's poll for Person of the Year in 2014 and 2016. Forbes Magazine ranked him the 15th Most Powerful Person in the World in 2014 and the 9th Most Powerful Person in the World in 2015, 2016 and 2018. In 2015, Modi was ranked the 13th Most Influential Person in the World by Bloomberg Markets Magazine. Modi was ranked fifth on Fortune Magazine's first annual list of the "World's Greatest Leaders" in 2015. In 2017, Gallup International Association (GIA) conducted a poll and ranked Modi as third top leader of the world. In 2016, a wax statue of Modi was unveiled at Madame Tussaud Wax Museum in London.
In 2015 he was named one of Time's "30 Most Influential People on the Internet" as the second-most-followed politician on Twitter and Facebook. In 2018 he was the third most followed world leader on Twitter, and the most followed world leader on Facebook and Instagram. In October 2018, Modi received UN's highest environmental award, the 'Champions of the Earth', for policy leadership by "pioneering work in championing" the International Solar Alliance and "new areas of levels of cooperation on environmental action". He was conferred the 2018 Seoul Peace Prize in recognition of his dedication to improving international co-operation, raising global economic growth, accelerating the Human Development of the people of India by fostering economic growth and furthering the development of democracy through anti-corruption and social integration efforts. He is the first Indian to win the award. In January 2019, PM Narendra Modi, a biographic film starring Vivek Oberoi as Modi, was announced.
Following his second swearing-in ceremony as Prime Minister of India, a picture of Modi was displayed on the facade of the ADNOC building in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Premiered on 12 August 2019, Modi appeared in a special episode of Discovery Channel's show Man vs Wild with the host Bear Grylls, becoming the second world leader after Barack Obama to appear in the adventure/survival show. In the show he trekked the jungles and talked about nature and wildlife conservation with Grylls. The episode was shot in Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand and was broadcast in 180 countries along India. The Texas India Forum hosted a community event in honour of Modi on 22 September 2019 at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The event was attended by over 50,000 people and several American politicians including President Donald Trump, making it the largest gathering for an invited foreign leader visiting the United States other than the Pope. At the same event, Modi was presented with the Key to the City of Houston by Mayor Sylvester Turner. He was awarded the Global Goalkeeper Award on 24 September 2019 in New York City by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in recognition for the Swachh Bharat Mission and "the progress India has made in providing safe sanitation under his leadership".
|Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud||Saudi Arabia||3 April 2016||Member Special Class, The highest honour of Saudi Arabia awarded to non-Muslim dignitaries|||
|State Order of Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan||Afghanistan||4 June 2016||The highest civilian honour of Afghanistan|||
|Grand Collar of the State of Palestine||Palestine||10 February 2018||The highest civilian honour of Palestine|||
|Order of Zayed||United Arab Emirates||4 April 2019||The highest civilian honour of the United Arab Emirates|||
|Order of St. Andrew||Russia||12 April 2019||The highest civilian honour of Russia|||
|Order of the Distinguished Rule of Izzuddin||Maldives||8 June 2019||The highest honour of the Maldives awarded to foreign dignitaries|||
|King Hamad Order of the Renaissance||Bahrain||24 August 2019||Member First Class, the third highest civilian honour of Bahrain|||
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| Chief Minister of Gujarat
| Prime Minister of India
|Gujarat Legislative Assembly|
| Member of the Legislative Assembly
Murli Manohar Joshi
| Member of the Lok Sabha