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December 25, 2014
India's most powerful prime minister in decades,Narendra Modi has become the focal point of a young nation's aspiration for a better tomorrow
In 2014, Narendra Modi was literally everywhere. On the campaign trail, with clenched fist and self-proclaimed 56-inch chest, Modi was the defining symbol of an India hankering to be liberated from the effete elitist UPA, roaring out a near universal echo against silver spoon-fed dynasts and ancien regime aristocrats. Ranging around with furious energy from Amethi to Chennai, from Bastar to Kerala, he rode tidal waves of expectation, each of his appearances a call to overthrow the old order, the up-by-his bootstraps "chaiwallah" flaunting his humble origins and perfect wardrobe as if to say, "If I can, you can too." Class warrior against the Oxbridge elite yet capitalist-friendly to desi business, Hindutva champion yet armed with modern high-tech media, the publicly endorsed emblem of a globalising India with a triumphant eye turned towards the Vedic Age.
Indeed, power in the country now flows from a designer kurta that was once made in Gujarat. Recently, on a chilly December evening, Rashtrapati Bhavan held an event to celebrate the construction of a new wing of the Ceremonial Hall. The Lutyens power elite were in attendance: ministers, governors, service chiefs, and the Rashtrapati himself. Dot on the appointed time, in walked the Prime Minister in his trademark salwar kurta, not a hair out of place. The chatter in the room shrank sharply to pindrop silence, as gathered VIPs jostled to catch the eye of the Supreme Leader. In 2014, Modi has become truly larger than life. Armed with a massive majority for the first time after 25 years of coalition governments, he's arguably the most powerful PM India has seen since Indira Gandhi in the 1970s.
It wasn't always quite like this. In 2002, Modi made it to the cover of this magazine for the first time. He was then labelled a "Master Divider", a politician who had presided over the terrible Gujarat communal violence that had left more than 1,000 people dead. He had become a sharply polarising figure: to his critics, he was a Hitler-like despot, someone who had knowingly failed to stop the killing of innocent Muslims. To his supporters, he was a 'Hindu Hriday Samrat', a macho leader who had protected the majority community in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning in which 56 kar sevaks were killed. The Congress leadership called him a "maut ka saudagar" (merchant of death); his flock called him "Gujarat ka sher" (lion of Gujarat). Never before has an individual so starkly divided public opinion.
Turn the clock a little further back. It's the 1990s and Modi is struggling to make his way up the political ladder. In a slowly rising BJP, clawing its way up to challenge Congress hegemony, he wasn't even a first among equals among his party's Generation Next. There was Pramod Mahajan, the suave man Friday and strategist for then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Sushma Swaraj was an electrifying campaigner while the sagacious Govindacharya was party ideologue. As a pracharak who had never fought an election. He was neatly attired even then, was an effective party spokesperson on television, and had shown superior organisational skills during the yatras of L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. But he never was in the front row of the BJP's potential successors to the Vajpayee-Advani duo. What he did possess though was an unshakeable self-belief, a dogged conviction that he was destined for greater things. There was a single-mindedness of purpose: he was a loyal karyakarta, unwaveringly committed to the growth of the BJP, but he was also fiercely individualistic, the ruthless practitioner of realpolitik who would not hesitate to sideline a political rival.
If 2002 and its immediate aftermath revealed a darker side of the Modi persona as the unflinching flag-bearer of divisive Hindutva politics, the years that followed showed another side to his image. From Hindutva icon to governance guru, Modi crafted a makeover that was deliberate and strategic, but also the result of hard work and a constant quest for self-improvement. When he took charge as Gujarat CM in October 2001, he self-confessedly had never sat in a government office or worked on government files. But he was determined to succeed. He built a reputation as a "karmayogi" politician who could work with the bureaucracy in effectively micro-managing government programmes: 24x7 power, girls education, irrigation schemes. Modi harnessed the state administration into an effective project-driven machine under his leadership.
There were, in a sense, two turning points in Modi's political career. The first was, undoubtedly, the train burning in Godhra and the riots that followed, where he acquired a distinct political identity by refusing to appear remorseful or apologetic for the state's administrative failure. The second defining moment came on October 7, 2008 when the Tata group announced it would set up a Nano plant in Sanand in Gujarat. The decision to move the plant from Bengal to Gujarat gave Modi what 2002 or election triumphs could never give him-credibility as a trustworthy administrator.
It was at this point that Modi's ambitions began to soar well beyond Gujarat. The riots had left him politically isolated; Tata's vote of confidence, recognition from a well-respected corporate citizen, gave him the self-confidence that the tide had turned. He unleashed a public relations blitz positioning himself as a politician committed to good governance, as a leader who was incorruptible and who had driven a "Gujarat model" of high growth and robust infrastructure. The Gujarat model and the cult of Modi would henceforth be inseparable.
The was now pitching himself as the icon of what he described as the "neo-middle" class. This "neo-middle class" was Modi's answer to the Congress's "aam admi" and would, eventually, form the core of his appeal ahead of the 2014 elections. Modi defined this constituency as the "aspirational" India, the India restless for a better life and upward mobility, a class which was, ironically enough, a beneficiary of the great economic transformation triggered in 1991 by the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh dispensation. Singh changed the economy but didn't quite understand the political upheaval it unleashed. Modi, in fact, grasped the politics created by the Great Change of '91 better than the Congress did.
Today, liberalisation has created a generation of young Indians for whom wealth creation and social and material advancement have become the fundamental markers of the good life, a mindset sharply at odds with their licence-permit raj-era parents and grandparents whose ambitions may have centred around government jobs and academic qualifications. This class-socially conservative on religious identity and cultural roots yet pushing towards economic liberalism and a relentless focus on growth-was a potential catchment area for an avowedly right-wing party which in the quest for newer voters had started to embellish its Hindu roots and aggressive nationalism with the promise of good governance.
To this class, in a rapidly changing and urbanising India, Modi was offering, quite simply, hope, as symbolised in his election promise of "achche din aayenge". Not surprisingly, the highest support for the BJP in the 2014 elections came from "young" Indians and first-time voters: a CSDS election study shows that as many as 42 per cent Indians in the age group of 18 to 25 wanted Modi as their PM as against just 16 per cent who wanted Rahul Gandhi.
It is one of the more fascinating features of the 2014 elections that the 64-year-old leader had a higher rating among younger voters than his prime opponent who was 20 years younger. Modi appeared to connect with the young, constantly communicating with them, be it while addressing town hall meetings in college campuses or through his crack communications team that focused on youthful social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Rahul, of whom it could be said that he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, doesn't even have a Facebook or Twitter account.
It isn't just Rahul to whom Modi should send thank you cards this new year for assisting in his "Mission 272" project. He should certainly send a thank you card to Manmohan Singh. The former prime minister, Sonia Gandhi's appointed wazir, was the soft-spoken scholar, hopelessly at sea, surrounded by a charged media, demanding citizenry and fierce calls to accountability. The gentle Sardar retreated into prolonged silences in the face of mounting charges of corruption against his ministers, giving the glaring impression of an absentee PM who had surrendered the executive space. In Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav was shown up to be a political novice, struggling to handle the complexity of India's most populous state. In the other key state of Maharashtra, Ajit Pawar with his infamous "let the farmers urinate in dams" remark was seen to typify the moral bankruptcy of a ruling clique which was now being labelled as the "nationalist corrupt party". Mani Shankar Aiyar, with his chaiwallah statement, only scored one of the Congress's biggest self-goals, a sneeringly condescending remark which enabled the BJP's PM candidate to go to town with a contrast between his own self-made achievements with the privileges of an entitled born-to-rule class.
There should also be a thank you note sent to the media, a large section of which became cheerleaders of the Modi juggernaut. Modi is a made-for-TV politician: he is a terrific orator, has a narcissistic love for the camera, and an uncanny knack to know what will make "news". In a soundbite-driven public discourse, Modi used the media, and television in particular, to position himself as a strong, bubbling-with-ideas leader who would rid the country of sloth and corruption. For the media, Modi was TRP (television rating points) and it seemed like we were in a permanent embrace with the BJP mascot, his images beaming out of every media outlet.
The campaign itself was quite brilliant: it used a deadly mix of media, money and technology to literally shock and awe the opposition. Modi in 3D, for example, showed how high-end technology could be used to spread the message of Modi Everywhere; a missed call and an SMS showed how the cell phone could be tellingly used to build a volunteer base; a video rath beamed out to 'media dark' villages in UP and Bihar and bridged the rural-urban divide. Nor was it a one-man show.
And yet, truthfully, the media did not create the Modi wave as much as simply ride on it. The "wave" (which Shah described as a "tsunami" or "tsunamo") was created by a political environment in which low growth, rising inflation, big-ticket corruption had bred a sense of negativism, even defeatism in the minds of voters. The voter was looking for an Arnold Schwarznegger-like Terminator who would offer instant solutions to a nation's problems.
A post-election study showed that 27 per cent or one in every four of those who voted for the BJP said they did so only because of Modi. Given the low morale in the Congress, the BJP would probably have been the number one party in any case but it was the Modi factor that brought in the incremental vote that pushed the party into the seemingly unthinkable territory of a majority on its own. He was, as a senior Congressman conceded, "a leader at the right time, at the right place, in the right context".
On May 26, 2014, Narendra Damodardas Modi was sworn in as India's fifteenth prime minister, the chief executive of the country's first unabashed Hindu nationalist government. This wasn't an unwieldy coalition in the Vajpayee-led NDA mould; NDA 2 was a BJP government where allies, even long-standing ones such as the Shiv Sena, had to be completely subservient to the BJP leadership. The swearing-in ceremony itself had a quintessential Modi touch. It wasn't held in the conventional Durbar Hall but in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan: a ceremony aimed to announce the arrival of the "outsider" and the new Delhi durbar.
Modi's always been an excellent impresario: his swearing-in too was a remarkably well-crafted event. The presence of the leaders of SAARC countries for the first time, including Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif, was again designed to create a stir and project the new prime minister as a putative statesman. Apparently, Ministry of External Affairs officials didn't know about the plan until the very last moment. In typical Modi style, he wanted to shake up the establishment. He takes pride in his "outsider" image, someone who doesn't want to be chained by the protocol and rules of Lutyens' Delhi, someone who is so strikingly singular that he didn't even invite his family for the swearing-in. By contrast, corporates, film stars, even his old Hindutva comrades such as Sadhvi Ritambhara were in attendance. "Mr Modi isn't going to decide his invitations based on traditional definitions of political correctness," is how one of his aides described the invitee list.
He played the showman role again in the US, turning Madison Square Garden into an NRI lovefest; he even dropped in to a music festival in Central Park and rubbed shoulders with Hollywood hero Hugh Jackman and greeted the crowd with a "may the force be with you", the Star Wars-style, rather quaint 1970s chant. The US may have denied him a visa for years in the aftermath of the riots, but Modi wasn't letting that come in the way of taking a stab at becoming a global leader.
Modi's penchant is for headline-grabbing one-liners at prime time (for example, his anti-corruption slogan 'na khaoonga, na khane doonga'); he likes to identify himself with inspirational figures (Sardar Patel one day, Vivekananda the next) and prefers to market simple but salient ideas that he thinks will resonate with a larger audience. His Independence Day speech was a performance more than just a traditional address to the nation. He promised to abolish the Planning Commission and made toilet building his new mission. "What kind of PM stands at Red Fort and talks about toilet building?" he asked with a rhetorical flourish. Swachh Bharat, a concept that he formally launched on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, is a campaign to spread the message of cleanliness.
Symbols and messages come easily to Modi, even though a more classical right-wing government would probably have opted for incentives rather than for social engineering of the Swachh Bharat kind, for a lesser role for the government than for an overweening position for the PMO. Is Modi a believer in right-wing market-friendly economics or is he in fact only delivering a more efficient UPA? That question hangs in the air. Those who had hoped that Modi would be India's Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher may be in for disappointment because Modi's economics is likely to be dictated entirely by his politics rather than a free market capitalist vision. This is the UPA with saffron lipstick, complained columnist Swaminathan Aiyar after the Government's maiden Budget.
Interestingly, the UPA government too had spoken of a Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan with a focus on sanitation. "We even had actor Vidya Balan as our brand ambassador, only we didn't know how to market it quite like Mr Modi," Jairam Ramesh remarked rather ruefully at the Aaj Tak Agenda conclave. However borrowed the schemes may be, even his critics now admit that Modi is the master communicator with an instinct for artful messaging. Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma, says that it's a gift which even the Father of the Nation possessed. "The important difference is that while for Bapu the message was all-important, Modi is keener to market himself first," Gandhi told me recently.
Modi though is perhaps clever enough to realise that eventually the message will have to triumph over the individual and substance will have to override slogans. In 2014, the individual and his slogans have been dominant: even today he seems in perpetual campaign mode, sometimes in tribal headgear, sometimes in a Kashmiri phiran, addressing rallies in some corner of the country, rousing NRIs across the world, delivering Sunday sermons on All India Radio. He has made multiple promises, raised expectations, energised the bureaucracy, created an aura of invincibility around himself.
Indeed, with every passing election, it is becoming clearer that the battlelines in Indian politics are drawn as Modi versus the rest: even sworn enemies such as Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar have been forced to come together in a desperate bid to try and stop Modi's electoral rath from trampling through Bihar. He is the glue that unites a disparate opposition, much like Indira's dominance in the 1970s created a 'khichdi' called the Janata Party. With the Congress still struggling to come to terms with its electoral debacle, the opposition space has shrunk. It has been left to a Mamata Banerjee, feeling threatened in her bastion in West Bengal, to lead the charge, a sign that self-preservation is dictating the terms of the political debate against Modi Raj.
With his trusted lieutenant, Amit Shah, as BJP president, Modi has also ensured that the party is firmly in his control. The old guard has been effectively retired to a 'margdarshak mandal' while his peers have little choice but to accept Modi's absolute leadership. Shah appears to have mastered the electoral math, and while the slogan of "Congress mukt Bharat" raises the troubling spectre of authoritarian oneparty rule, it also reflects the sheer audacity of ambition to create an impact from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. And while the Valley has been immune to the blossoming of the lotus in 2014, the fact that the Modi-Shah combine could speak of a "Mission 44" in the Jammu and Kashmir elections confirms their determination to occupy mindspace at all times.
And yet, Modi isn't the universal messiah his bhakts would like to project him as. For a loquacious politician, he has stayed worryingly silent when Hindutva hotheads have raised issues such as 'love jihad' and conversions, thereby widening the trust deficit with minorities (he broke with tradition and refused to hold the prime minister's annual iftar party and rejects wearing a skull cap as tokenism even while happily adding every other dress code to his wardrobe). He hasn't yet been able to push major economic or institutional reform, or revive manufacturing, he still hasn't broken logjams in Parliament and hasn't dealt with critical issues of Centre-state relations. Modi's relationship with the Sangh also remains unclear: is the powerful Prime Minister in control of the Parivar within? Will all executive decisions be soundtested for Sangh acceptability?
Sooner or later, the media honeymoon will end and the tough, but rather prosaic task of governing India outside the glare of the TV camera will have to begin. 2014 was the year of the campaigner: an election was won by the sheer force of personality. 2015 could well be the year of the administrator, where promises made will have to be backed by performance. Voters have seen Modi on TV, social media and in 3D, now they need to see him in flesh and blood.
It's the life lessons that he picked up as a man of humble beginnings that will keep Prime Minister Narendra Modi in good stead Narendra Modi may have emerged as a skilful administrator and a man with the flair for marketing his vision with flashy taglines, but his life story is one of easy simplicity peppered with an intermittent but undeniable bohemian streak. His rise from the son of a tea-shop owner to one of India's most powerful prime ministers is not without its share of fascinating anecdotes and incidents that shaped his nowtowering personality.
Born in 1950, Modi grew up in a small three-room house as one of six children of Damodardas Modi, who owned a small tea shop at the railway station in Vadnagar in north Gujarat. A young Modi would help his father at the stall after school and often double up as a delivery boy carrying a metal cup-holder filled with tea glasses.
At Shri B.N. High School in Vadnagar, where he studied until the 11th standard, Modi was recognised as a brilliant student. Not surprisingly, he was the best orator in his class and took part in school dramas- once playing the role of the Maharaja of Bhavnagar. His extracurricular repertoire extended to being a fine NCC cadet. "He was truly multifaceted," says Sudhir Joshi, a classmate who still lives in Vadnagar. Adds Nagji Desai, another classmate with whom Modi used to spend a lot of his free time: "In whatever he did at school, he was always number one."
The five-year period from when he turned 17 was a phase of great turbulence for Modi, and perhaps the part of his life that made the deepest impact on his personality. When he was barely 18, his parents forced him to marry Jashodaben, a girl from his own oil-tiller community, against his wishes.
Apologising to his young wife for not being strong enough to have made the decision earlier, he walked out of his marriage and went to the Himalayas for three months, and then moved to Ahmedabad permanently on his return.
In Gujarat's biggest city at the end of the 1960s, Modi took up the job of a supervisor in the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation canteen. Though Modi didn't care much about the kind of food he ate-khichdi and kadhi being his staple-he was always fond of clothes, shoes, and accessories.
Rising through the ranks
Between 22 and 25, Modi worked as pracharak in Sanghrelated bodies and also as a district pracharak. The turning point came when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency in 1975. Modi stepped forward as a key strategist for the Sangh, remaining underground for several months to help anti-Congress political forces.
Modi's next noticeable contribution was helping the victims of the Morvi dam disaster in 1979. Modi, who was in Chennai when he heard about the dam burst, rushed to the spot within 12 hours and was instrumental in floating a trust for the families of those affected.
In 1986, Modi was transferred to the Gujarat BJP as its organisational secretary. He became a key strategist for the BJP in the state for the Ayodhya Ram Mandir agitation and, in the backdrop of poor relief work by the state government during the 1987-1989 drought, started the Nyaya Yatra with Vaghela to seek justice for drought victims.
Propelled into the limelight as an emerging leader, Modi played a key role in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections and the state Assembly elections in early 1990. The BJP's creditable performance in the two elections firmly established him as a key political and electoral strategist, and even won him a place in the 11-member national election committee of the BJP for the 1991 Lok Sabha polls.
Modi visited the United States at least four times between 1990 and 2000 and spent time with the Indian diaspora. Kanchan Banerjee, a technocrat in Boston at whose house Modi dined on several occasions, gives an example of his love for the latest gizmos: "One time, when my family forced him to accept a gift from us, Modi reluctantly asked for the latest laptop, a version even we weren't even using at home at that time. It was a surprise that he was so well-versed in the latest technology."
Despite being a tough taskmaster, Modi's softer side is visible in his attention to detail as far as the finer points of personal etiquette go. Soon after the 2007 Vibrant Gujarat Summit in Ahmedabad, for example, an aide told Modi that it was a mistake to ask Sanjay Lalbhai of Arvind Mills to sit in the last row on the dais because he was an industrialist of repute and his grandfather Kasturbhai Lalbhai was known as a generous philanthropist. Modi's Principal Secretary K. Kailasnathan immediately sent a letter of apology to Lalbhai, who was pleasantly surprised by the gesture.
A deeper insight into Modi's philosophy can be gathered from his collections of poems Aankh Aa Dhanya Che ("Oh Eye, I am grateful to you"), and Sakshibhaav, a book in which Modi has shared his musings from his diary in the mid-1970s when he had not yet entered politics. But there is also a ruthless streak in Modi, evident in how he crushed all opposition within his own party, first in Gujarat where he was embroiled in a tussle with Keshubhai Patel and Sanjay Joshi, and then at the national stage where he sidelined a reluctant BJP leadership to emerge as the party's prime ministerial candidate in 2013.
With the era of Modi upon us, there will be many hypotheses and expositions on what the Prime Minister's motivations are, and how they have been derived. Be that as it may, it cannot be denied that our Newsmaker of 2014 has led a simple life that could not have been less ordinary.
Social media style
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweeting patterns have caught the eye of American media researchers, particularly his use of sarcasm as a social media weapon.
A study published in the International Journal of Communication this week shows he tweets under nine broad themes: cricket, RahulGandhi(opposition leader), entertainment, sarcasm, corruption, development, foreign affairs, Hinduism, and science & technology. But what struck researchers was his “use (of) political irony and sarcasm to become broadly appealing and refashion his political style.” After analysing more than 9,000 tweets over six years, they found sarcastictweetswere concentrated around elections.
“We try and explain what makes him popular,” said Joyojeet Pal, University of Michigan’s assistant professor of information who led the study. “Modi’s irony provides a form of political spectacle and resonated on social media as shown by high retweeting of his sarcastically wordedmessages.”
In tweets during national polls, the study said, Modi referred to the main opposition party as corrupt and Rahulas “Rahul Baba” or “Shahzada (prince)”. Using humour and sarcasm, he was signaling that the Congress was not in touch with its roots and letting hisown followers get the inside joke, researchers said. One such tweet goes: “The way Rahul Baba is making statements with a dash of comedy in them, I think the TV show of Kapil Sharma may soon have to shut shop”.
At 36 million, Modi has the second largest following on Twitter among world leaders, with Donald Trump topping the chart at 42.8 million followers. Rahul’s official Twitter handle has 4.36 million followers.
The researchers said Modi’s useof sarcasm buildson a longer tradition of slogan humour during political rallies. “There are plenty of attacks, rhetoric, cleverly worded jibes and jokes,” Pal said. But there hasn’t been much snarkiness in November. His last attack on Congress was on November 2: “Congress has become a laughing club. They are non-serious about important issues and are heavily involved in corruption.” Instead, it was @OfficeOfRG that tweeted, “Modi ji - nice touch removing the suit. What about the loot?” in a referencetoRafaledeal.
The researchers said although social media did not reach many “traditional rural and peri-urban uppercaste Hindu voters of BJP, they extended Modi’s appeal to a new young urban constituency.” “After the election, the celebrity mentions and tweets about foreign policy increase,” Pal said.
The researchers said the sarcasm helped separate Hindutva-oriented content, traditionally more divisive than the pan-Indian patriotic rhetoric of “India First”, through which Modi gained a more secular standing.
“The power of Modi’s message is in the juxtaposition of his past as a train station tea-seller alongside his present as a selfie-clicking leader of a strong aspirational but fundamentally nationalist state,” Pal said. “Sarcasm is as much a message from Modi as it is a message about him.”
The economy’s performance
Key indicators of the state of the Indian economy, Forex reserves, Foreign Direct Investment, Sensex, May 2014-Nov 2017
Key indicators of the state of the Indian economy- exchange rate, change in crude prices, rate of inflation, GDP growth, fiscal deficit, investment and structural reforms, May 2014-Nov 2017
Untouched by Modi’s rise
Around midday, 75-year-old Sombhai Modi blows the conch shell at the newly-constructed Sirdi Sai temple in an old age home run by the Sarvodaya Sewa Trust headed by him. The compound recently acquired gates but there is nothing to detract from the relative obscurity and ordinariness that marks the ‘aarti’ and other rituals that are part of the daily routine at the ashram.
Sombhai’s younger brother Narendra Modi’s rise to the prime ministership has not changed things at the Vadnagar ashram where Sombhai has lived since the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. Modi became chief minister later that year, launching him on a journey that took him to the PM’s post, but Sombhai’s life remains unchanged as he tends to the elderly and organises blood donation and healthcare camps.
Unlike the more common trend of relatives gaining in affluence and influence, Sombhai objects to being called the “Prime Minister’s brother” and feels comfortable with the lack of attention. Despite repeated requests, Sombhai refuses an interview, saying, “It kills the purpose of not using the position of my younger brother.”
He adds, “There are several people running old age homes like me but you chose to interview me simply because I am Narendra Modi’s brother. It encourages dynasty, and may be, relatives and other acquaintances will try to influence people and misuse the power.”
Sombhai suggests a visit to Vadnagar town, which has witnessed changes recently with the construction of a new railway station, the one where Modi used to sell tea at an outlet run by his father Damodardas Modi.
Sombhai is not an exception. The Modi clan, descendants of Moolchand Mangilal Modi, Narendra Modi’s grandfather, are quite widely spread out. Most lead relatively unremarkable lives. In the time Modi became CM in 2001and PM in 2014, his extended family remains much the same.
Modi’s first cousin Ashokbhai cooks meals at a sevashram in Vadnagar. Ashokbhai cooks ‘khichdi’ and his wife Vimlaben Modi washes utensils. The couple earns Rs 4,000-5,000 a month to take care of three daughters and a son. In the festival season, he sells kites, firecrackers and puts up stalls at nearby fairs. “I wish Narendrabhai attends my daughters’ wedding,” says Ashokbhai, who is considerably younger to the PM.
With assembly polls approaching, most family members are cautious, avoiding media glare. One of them says, “Why do we need to even prove that we have no political dreams. We want to live like 125 crore Indians and gain in life through hard work.”
Modi’s younger sister Vasantiben and her husband Hansmukhbhai Modi, who retired from LIC, live in a row house at Vishnagar, some 90 km from Ahmedabad.
The Modi family’s modest means plays a key role in BJP’s aggressive attacks on rivals for promoting dynasts as leaders. Rahul Gandhi is the prime target as was Akhilesh Yadav in the UP elections. BJP’s slogan of “politics of performance” is buttressed by the lack of change in the Modi family’s fortunes.
Modi’s youngest brother Pankajbhai, an officer with the state information department, is the most well known, thanks to mother Heeraben staying with him in his three-room house in Ahmedabad. Modi visits on occasions, including his birthday to take his mother’s blessings.
Another older brother, Amrutbhai, retired from a private company as a fitter in 2005. He settled in Ghatlodia Colony in Ahmedabad. His family’s austerity has helped Modi avoid being tagged for nepotism though some family members rue that the PM should attend a family dinner. That does not seem very likely though.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi bids for re-election, his party has said his skillful diplomacy on the world stage has increased India's global stature and brought in a flood of investment.
But what exactly have PM Modi's foreign travels achieved? With 92 trips to 57 countries since coming to power in May 2014, Modi has flown abroad nearly twice as much as his predecessor Manmohan Singh in five years.
While Modi's visits have won praise from supporters for boosting India's global profile, the costs associated with them — and the optics of traveling abroad so often in a country where many farmers are struggling — have triggered some criticism. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has accused Modi of ignoring problems at home.
A closer look at Modi's trips show that while some have yielded vague agreements that may not develop into anything substantial, doubters may still be exaggerating the negatives. Summit meetings accounted for roughly a third of Modi's visits. And his arrival in each foreign capital made a symbolic statement about New Delhi's world outlook. Modi also made a point of repeatedly meeting leaders such as Japan's Shinzo Abe and Russia's Vladimir Putin, whose countries provide much-needed industrial investment and defense technology.
Foreign direct investment into India in Modi's first term amounted to $193 billion, 50 percent more than the preceding five years.
At the same time, despite a high-profile push to generate jobs through manufacturing, much of the FDI has continued to flow into India's services and capital-intensive industries, not labor-intensive ones. While Modi won investment commitments from longstanding economic and strategic rival China, it largely remains a non-starter. FDI from China totaled $1.5 billion in the four years to March 2018, data from India's central bank show, against $20 billion President Xi Jinping promised in the five years from 2014.
Under Modi, India started purchasing crude and liquefied natural gas cargoes from the US for the first time. In the last five years, he struck deals from Russia to the Middle East securing oil assets for India. He got the world's biggest oil exporter Saudi Aramco to agree to invest in India's largest oil refinery, and the UAE to fill up strategic oil reserves, reducing the strain on state finances.
More broadly, Modi has maintained relations with Gulf countries crucial to India's energy security even as he strengthened ties with Iran. However, the opposition has criticized the prime minister's diplomacy for failing to win continued access to cheaper Iranian crude in the face of increasing US pressure on Tehran.
Modi has tried to tap a number of countries for strategic projects, which has occasionally brought him political grief.
After making the first-ever visit to Israel by an Indian premier, Modi has continued to seek advanced defense and water technology from Tel Aviv. With Japan, India is building a bullet train in Modi's native state Gujarat — although the slow pace of land acquisition has led to criticism.
In 2016, Modi signed an $8.7 billion deal for 36 Rafale fighter planes from France. The move has come under intense scrutiny since then for alleged rule violations, which his government has denied. Opponents have continued to use the deal to question the government's anti-corruption credentials.
Modi has tried to use his trips to bolster India's global image as an investment destination and a rising global power. He's addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos and the Shangri-La security dialogue in Singapore.
Modi used a rare informal summit with China's Xi in the city of Wuhan last year to patch up geopolitical tensions between New Delhi and Beijing following a military stand off in the Himalayas. However several trips, including a surprise visit to Pakistan in 2015, did not yield any tangible results. And though Modi has approached diplomacy with vigor, some analysts suggest he has not injected the resources — or implemented the reforms — necessary to improve India's standing in the world.
A special connection
Goa, it seems, is something of a ‘lucky charm’ for Narendra Modi. From the post-Godhra days to being named BJP’s PM pick for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the state has always been special for him. So, on Friday, when his government decided to give its fourth booster shot to a tottering economy, it chose Goa to announce the raft of far-reaching and bold economic reforms aimed at steering the country back on to the growth path.
Modi’s connection to Goa goes way back to April 2002. At the BJP national executive meet held in the aftermath of the post-Godhra riots, Modi, then the CM of Gujarat, overcame stiff opposition from party members and the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to retain his post. And, months later, he led his party to a series of spectacular successes that made him the prized vote-catcher for BJP.
It was 11 years later in Goa again that Modi emerged victorious as the party decided to appoint him as the election campaign chief for the 2014 general elections, paving the way for him to lead BJP to a thumping majority at the Centre.
“Goa has a very special place for me. This is the same Goa that allowed me to continue to serve Gujarat in 2002,” Modi had said after being appointed the party’s election panel chief in 2013. On both occasions, Goa had a BJP government under the late Manohar Parrikar, who openly supported Modi.
Modi’s first official visit outside the national capital after taking over as PM in 2014 was again to Goa, when he laid the foundation stone for the third Mandovi bridge. And it was again from Goa in 2016 that Modi, in an emotional address, made his position clear to the nation in his first comments post-demonetisation.
As Modi had said: “When I got the blessings of Goa, I was able to scale new heights.” He would be hoping now that the slew of announcements made in Goa would allow him and his government to tide over the economic crisis.
Modi found China when blocked by great visa wall
Kapil Dave,The Times of India May 14, 2015
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bond with China dates back to his days as the chief minister of Gujarat. China was one of the first countries Modi visited after he was denied visa by the US in 2005. In November 2006, Modi embarked on a five-day trip to China, visiting Beijing and Shanghai apart from the special economic zones in Shenzhen and Pudong.
Among the important MoUs signed during his visit was the one with China Light & Power Company, which has set up a 600MW gas-fired power plant in Paguthan in South Gujarat. The company is planning to establish a 2,000MW coal-fired plant at the same location.
However, many MoUs, such as the one establishing the sister-state relationship with Tianjin province, never took off. Talks of a technical tie-up between the Three Gorges Dam authority and Gujarat's Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam did not make much headway either.
Five years later, when Modi visited China again, he was accorded the treatment reserved for heads of state or national government: he was, for instance, received at the Great Hall of People. Travelling with Modi were his favourite bureaucrats like K Kailashnathan (who has been the chief principal secretary in the Gujarat government since his retirement in 2012); and A K Sharma, who is now with the PMO. The delegation also comprised top representatives from Reliance, Essar, Adani, and Shell Hazira.
Since then, China's TBEA has begun operations in the state and plans a Rs 2,500 crore infusion for a Green Energy Park in Karjan near Vadodara.
The China-India Trade and Investment Centre estimates that Chinese companies may invest about $1 billion in sectors like electronics and infrastructure in the coming years. According to industry sources, investment commitments made by Chinese companies in Gujarat is to the tune of around Rs 10,000 crore, most of which was pledged when Modi was the CM. The actual investments could be around Rs 1,000 crore, most of it in the power equipment sector.
In 2011, many MoUs were signed with Chinese entities; most have not materialized. These plans included: telecom giant Huawei setting up a manufacturing base in the state; and a tie-up between Shanghai Institute for Contemporary Development Studies for International Enterprises and a university in Gujarat. The state wanted to consult the Shanghai (Yangshan) Deep Water Port authority for technological options for the Kalpasar Project, but progress hasn't been achieved. Gujarat is a heavyweight in the port sector and has immense potential.
2014: General Elections
Winning India was an extraordinary achievement. A new book reminds us how Narendra Modi did it.
March 27, 2015
Lance Price has written the definitive account of the campaign that got Modi to where he is now, friend of Barack and Bibi, mentor-in-residence of a young nation, and custodian-in-chief of an emerging alternative narrative of the past. Much of what he tells us is known to most journalists who reported or researched the 2014 General Election-the use of social media, the debut of 3D technology, the support of gurus such as Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. But the star of the book, as of the campaign, is Modi, as he tirelessly recounts the relentless campaign to Price with complete lack of irony about either referring to himself in the third person or recalling his God-given gifts (among them being a sense of style).
Pay attention to details
Piyush Pandey talks of how Modi was his art director, often stepping in to suggest colours and designs. Nothing was too minor for Candidate Modi to pay attention to. The theme was clear and best articulated by Modi: "My campaign had to be national but my appeal had to be local to the people."
Delegate to the right people
Because Modi could not use the party machinery, he put together a collection of bright, young, committed professionals, ranging from IT specialists Hiren Joshi and Prashant Kishor to admen Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi, who worked tirelessly for him.
Allow for experiments
The 'Chai pe Charcha' was abandoned after the first three times, while the 3D technology was tried a few times before it was perfected.
Never miss an opportunity to attack
The 2014 campaign was marked by the Congress handing Modi a series of prize catches-from Rahul Gandhi's toffee remark to Priyanka Gandhi's comment about neech rajniti to Manmohan Singh's achche din remark at his last press conference as prime minister. Modi didn't miss a single trick.
Never give up
As Price notes, Modi had to mount a three-step campaign-to win Gujarat in 2012, win over his party in 2013 and then India in 2014. It required patience, dedication, and never losing faith, not just on Modi's part but also on the part of all his followers. They managed because they didn't drop the ball even once.
Go big With Modi, says an aide to Price, everything had to be the biggest, the boldest, the best. Nothing less would do.
Price gives us a ringside view of Modi's way of working: how he checks his email first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. He tells us of Modi's two favourite responses to criticism-Congress lies and media distortion, in that order. He even settles the debate on how much, or how little, Modi sleeps-it is five hours.
It is when Price is analysing the future of the government that he is at his best. He quotes Arun Shourie as saying that the government had better start performing if it has to endure: "You need to act on what Buddha said: Live each day like your hair is on fire." And indeed, though Modi seems in no hurry, India is. It's when you read Price that you remember what an extraordinary campaign Modi launched to win India. Now he has to unleash similar forces for India to win the world. Or as Mario Cuomo said so famously: you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.
NDA government (2014-19 )
MANN KI BAAT
Prime Minister Modi began airing his Mann ki Baat from October 2014, in the form of a monthly radio show even as he stayed away from addressing any press conferences during his tenure. It had, among its highlights, a joint address with US President Barack Obama, who was India’s chief guest for the R-Day parade, in January 2015
SURPRISE PAK VISIT
The PM stunned all with a surprise visit to Pakistan that he announced at the last minute, through a tweet, on his way back from Kabul in Dec 2015. It also happened to be the wedding day of Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s granddaughter and the presence of the Indian PM raised hope of a new beginning in peace ties between the neighbours
UN SPEECH... TO YOGA DAY
In a landmark speech delivered in Hindi at the UN General Assembly in Sept 2014, the PM spoke of, among other things, global recognition of yoga through a Yoga Day. India’s draft resolution was adopted and June 21 was declared as International Yoga Day by the United Nations in 2015
The most controversial decision of the Modi era came through a sudden announcement by the PM in November 2016 that all Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes were being banned overnight. It led to weeks of long queues at ATMs as people struggled to exchange notes.
The Opposition called it a scam, the govt said it was needed to eliminate black money
The Modi govt’s most successful programme, praised worldwide, saw the govt aggressively build toilets to stop open defecation in rural areas and improve waste management in cities to stop littering. The Swachh Bharat rankings introduced the competitive edge.
The result is cities like Indore, which have transformed
SURGICAL STRIKES AND BALAKOT
The Army’s surgical strikes in PoK after the 2016 Uri attack and the air strike on the JeM camp in Balakot this year marked a paradigm shift in India’s attitude towards terrorism triggered from across the border. The bold moves sent the message that the threat of N-weapons wouldn’t come in the way of India acting against terror targets in Pakistan. They also established Modi’s decisive leader credentials
Obsolete laws repealed
The Times of India, May 19 2016
The Narendra Modi government may be facing the opposition hurdle in Rajya Sabha in enacting certain new laws, but its record of getting obsolete and redundant laws out of the statute book appears to be moving ahead without too much fuss.
Successive governments had repealed 1,301 such outdated laws in 64 years. But the present government has managed to weed out as many as 1,159 obsolete laws in less than two years.
Obviously , the oppositiondominated Upper House too had played its part when it passed those bills concerning repeal of the 1,159 central laws, including two dozen of them from the British era, that had lost relevance long ago due to enactment of other related laws, incorporating provisions of the earlier Acts, over the years.
RS had passed two such bills, repealing 1,053 Acts, during the recently concluded Budget session. While the passing of one -Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Bill 2015 -could repeal 758 old appropriation acts, the other one -Repealing and Amending (Third) Bill, 2015 -could weed out the other 295 Acts.
Laws on licence to kill and capture of wild elephants in certain circumstances, segregation and medical treatment of lepers, regulating the grant of titles to qualified persons in western medical science, prohibition of pledging of labour of children (child slavery), regulating recruitments of foreigners during pre-Independence period, agreement with Pakistan on exchange of prisoners, continuation of use of courts in Bengal, Assam and Punjab for those who migrated to Pakistan and power to regulate prices of newspapers are among others Acts which have been repealed.
There had been many more laws in the statute books which had been of no use as provisions of most of the old Acts had already been incorporated in new legislations.
To knock the wind out of suit-boot jibes levelled at him by rivals, Narendra Modi has rolled out welfare scheme after scheme aimed at uplifting the masses
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on his way to address a poll meeting when he saw a news alert pop up on his iPad about Congress president Rahul Gandhi claiming that the Supreme Court had endorsed his allegations about Modi’s personal complicity in alleged corruption in the Rafale deal.
The PM promptly told his aides the claim needed to be robustly countered, and soon the BJP’s aggressive rejoinder was out on social media and TV screens.
Modi went on to deliver a long speech focused on the themes of development and national security which he felt were relevant to constituencies he was addressing, without making a mention of the issue that would end up embarrassing the main challenger. It was not an omission though, as he asked about the BJP’s response as soon as he finished speaking.
The attention to detail and the skill to compartmentalise matters was typical of the energetic campaign the PM ran, slogging through long days that typically began by sending emails to staffers and aides around 5.30am, often setting the agenda before some of them had risen. This is around the time Modi scanned social media, checking the popular pulse and picking up clues that could become sharp political points.
Officials and political aides who work with the PM find the pace scorching as Modi seems to multi-task with ease, switching between political and official work. After his pre-dawn yoga, the PM’s focus in recent weeks has been political. He’s often passed on assessments and surveys or specific points relating to a particular Lok Sabha seat to relevant individuals in the BJP for feedback. A team that has worked with Modi since he was Gujarat CM has come to respect their boss’s sixth sense of what might become a political issue – either a weapon of offence or one that needs defusing.
Looking back to the early days of his prime ministership, a key decision Modi took was not to discontinue programmes like MNREGA which he had criticised as money sunk into pits. Similarly, Modi did not roll back the Food Security Act despite criticism that making 67% of the population as beneficiaries would be expensive, wasteful and almost take the focus away from those who actually needed the scheme.
Having drawn lessons from BJP’s ill-fated 2004 Shining India campaign, Modi did not want to give those waiting to daub the party as pro-rich a chance to say “we told you so”. MNREGA was made more accountable through geo-tagging and more importantly, its payment scheme was reworked to eliminate leaks and ensure faster direct disbursals. Despite making it a flagship programme, UPA barely launched the scheme. The Modi government ensured all states rolled out the FSA and looked to add more commodities to PDS. This was a hint of the welfare agenda he would soon roll out.
Asked if he’s proved critics – who expected social welfare programmes to shrink given the right-wing belief in markets as more efficient solutions – wrong, Modi says anyone who followed his record as CM would have known better.
LAYING THE AADHAAR
Recognising financial inclusion as the key to improving living standards, Jan Dhan accounts were an early initiative. In discussions with officials, Modi had a simple directive – keep the application form simple, no more than one page. Public sector banks led by SBI were the main vehicle of delivery, with the deposits now touching Rs 1 lakh crore. Not surprisingly, private banks lag state-owned ones by a wide margin.
Modi’s ability to dive into the implementation aspects of programmes and his receptiveness to ambitious targets makes him a bit of a policy wonk. But he doesn’t lose sight of the link between political objectives and governance and does not see it as an academic exercise. Modi’s big programmes like Jan Dhan, Swachh Bharat, Ujjwala, Ayushman Bharat, PM Awas Yojana and even Pahal (the give-up subsidy scheme) are marked by a strong focus on implementation through technology platforms like Aadhaar.
The UID programme, hit by infighting in the UPA government, has been a cornerstone of his government’s success in ensuring the right people get the benefits of welfare programmes.
The direct transfer element means a substantial reduction of intermediaries and leaks and therefore less corruption, adding up to savings of possibly Rs 9 billion.
REAPING THE BENEFITS OF MSP HIKE
The political prompt behind the decision to increase minimum support price (MSP) to 1.5 times of costs and the Rs 6,000-a-year transfer to farmers is clear enough. The income support came after farm distress was seen to have played a role in ousting long-running BJP governments in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and ensuring the party’s exit in Rajasthan. BJP leaders believed that rather than distress factors like drought, the key issue was low prices for farm produce. Growth in farm incomes could not match urban centres and disparity in lifestyles had also become a bone of contention.
The MSP measures had been in the works months before the 2018 winter assembly elections but were seen as slow in taking effect. Income support was seen as doable – again on the back of direct transfers into bank accounts – and the results were evident as the campaign unfolded. Several beneficiaries received two rounds of payments and Oppositionruled states that did not provide lists of eligible farmers were accused of denying funds to agriculturists.
The welfare programmes directed at the poor had a potent political element. They were intended to make BJP the party of choice among a section of electorate that has viewed regional parties with caste and populist agendas and the Congress – with its rights-based approach – with favour. BJP was often seen as an urban party with a North Indian orientation. Its rise after the Ayodhya agitation also led to it making inroads among backwards and Dalits, but these influences tended to be passing. Hindutva helped make BJP more than an “upper-caste and trader party”, but parties like Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party halted the consolidation.
The 2014 election saw a significant section of the poor voting for Modi, persuaded by his “chaiwala” pitch and earthy appeal. They were also angered by the high inflation of UPA years. As PM, Modi understood the need to bind this constituency to the BJP and set about snatching the “pro-poor” card from the Congress. The initiatives to build toilets and houses, deliver cooking gas, old-age pensions and power connections and the PM Kisan transfers helped convince this big and decisive section of voters that Modi was their man. The programmes, along with other initiatives like the mission mode Gram Swaraj Abhiyan, helped establish the PM’s credibility among the under-privileged.
NOTEBANDI: RISKY BUT GOOD POLITICS?
The impact of demonetisation is still hotly debated and was perhaps the riskiest political move in Modi’s first term as PM. It was intended to be a shock to the system and a dramatic measure to attack circulation of black money. Its exact economic fallout has proved hard to map as it was soon followed by another disruptive measure – the introduction of GST. The November 8, 2016 announcement, despite the immediate hardships and sudden shrinkage of daily wage-linked work, proved a political success. It was seen to have seriously discomfited the rich and perceived as being ordered by a leader who was above black money politics himself.
There was a vicarious delight in tales of those with large cash hoards scrambling to dispose of currency and instances of domestic help and other employees being given months of salary in advance.
Success in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections, as also BJP’s win in Delhi’s municipal polls, were seen as vindication of notebandi. Despite the return of almost all denotified currency, demonetisation paid off as Modi came across as a leader prepared to take on vested interests. The absence of any widespread violence and relatively swift re-monetisation helped avert political damage. Notebandi supplemented the welfarist approach in securing a broader social coalition for the BJP, with the inclusion of sections that had traditionally aligned with its rivals.
Along with positioning himself as a leader who could think big and deliver on time, Modi’s challenge was to ensure the government’s credentials on national security remained intact. He did so by showing a flair for foreign policy that surprised commentators. He displayed a keen eye for economic partnerships but built strategic relations with the US, Germany, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Australia and Japan. This was vital in ensuring India did not get isolated in its differences with difficult neighbours Pakistan and China. After initial attempts at restarting dialogue, Modi seemed to realise Pakistan was going to be his principal international and domestic challenge.
The first hint of a pro-active military strategy came with the cross-border strikes against NSCN (K) in 2015 after 18 soldiers died in an ambush in Manipur. The surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir followed the next year after 19 soldiers died in a Jaish-e-Mohammed attack on an Army camp in Uri. Though denied by Pakistan, the operation gave a boost to the PM’s image as a doer who had called the rogue neighbour’s bluff. The airstrikes on the JeM camp in Balakot in Pakistan were a much bolder operation, with a large force of Indian Air Force jets crossing the LoC for the first time. The absence of any support for Pakistan barring Turkey, and the US backing of India’s right to selfdefence dented Islamabad’s nuclear blackmail.
The Balakot airstrikes quickly percolated to the grassroots. The popular view was that Modi had broken a pattern of defensive responses. The PM used vigorous references to the strikes – “Ghar mein ghoos ke mara hai” – to contrast his government’s measures to the unpreparedness of UPA to hit targets in Pakistan. The argument played well with both urban and rural opinion tending to see national security as a primary requirement.
With the strikes proving a tonic, the Pakistan-bashing theme tied in with BJP’s attack on the Opposition for seeking “proof” of damage to the Jaish camp. Painting the opposition as “pro-Pakistan” sat close to BJP’s more usual charge of “appeasement” as Modi and other senior leaders accused Congress of catering to vote banks. The clamour likely buried Congress’s attempts to raise the Rafale deal as a likely corruption issue with BJP trumpeting that neither graft nor inflation had become a pain point in the election.
Cultural issues such as beef bans and the rise of assertive Hindutva could have been a trip wire for Modi. There was a delay in reacting to the Dadri lynching in 2015 though the PM then followed up with repeated warnings that no one should take the law into their hands. Cases of cow vigilantism attracted wide attention and saw several campaigns such as “award wapsi” and “not in my name” becoming the fulcrum of the “intolerance” movement against Modi. The charge that his rise encouraged militant Hindutva elements affected a section of middle-class sentiment bothered by what it saw as a coarsening of society.
Yet the political damage could have been more but for BJP seizing on incidents such as the controversial attempt to observe the “martyrdom” of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru at JNU by a section of Left and far-Left students. BJP swiftly turned this into a “nationalist” cause, accusing Congress of backing the “tukde-tukde gang.” This, along with a broader rise of Hindu identity, worked to the BJP’s benefit as its state governments made “gau raksha” a major part of their programmes even as a stray cattle problem almost upset the BJP applecart in UP.
The cultural battles saw BJP push for a more unabashed Hindu flavour to its articulation while seeking to corner opponents as those whose arguments echo Pakistan. Is the Opposition ganging up only to eject Modi who ordered airstrikes on Balakot? This was the question Modi repeatedly asked in his rallies.
He captured the popular imagination despite the contentious debate on jobs in the midst of major initiatives like GST and related laws intended to force failing companies to either cede control to new owners or accept a dissolution process. As claims on employment flew thick and fast, the government found itself accused of not releasing unflattering data on joblessness. It argued that spending on infrastructure, schemes like Mudra and the new economy were generating jobs.
The debate is far from settled, but Modi’s projection of a more hopeful future – along with his welfare approach – caught the imagination of voters who tended to see the opposition, particularly Congress, as tainted by corruption scandals. In his campaign, Modi insisted his record should be compared to UPA and kept the focus on Congress’s record of graft scandals. Congress sought to turn the tables through Rafale allegations, farm distress and jobs, but failed to trump Modi’s formidable credibility with voters.
His key words
PM Modi’s Key Words
What Narendra Modi spoke about, 2017-19
An analysis of PM Narendra Modi’s speeches in March 2019 gives insights into his election focus and what he is choosing to ignore. Right on top is ‘Defence’ — a topic that's always got high mentions, followed by ‘Infrastructure’, ‘Farmers’, ‘Women’ and ‘Development’. The topics he's choosing to steer clear of are ‘Demonetisation’, ‘GST’ and ‘Digital’. These were once close to his heart, but one month prior to the Lok Sabha polls, it appears he thinks they will not cut ice with the voter.
Going back two years, a look at the frequency of selected words used by Modi in the 553 speeches he has given since 2017, gives a sense of the broad themes he's focused upon. For instance, while the PM’s use of the word ‘chowkidar’ has peaked now; 'Pakistan', on the other hand, saw more mentions in 2017, even though Pulwama and the Balakot strike are the main focus of BJP’s push for a return to power at the Centre. Here’s more...
While campaigning for the 2014 Indian general election, Modi in his speeches, promised that he would serve the country, not as a prime minister but as a watchman and never allow anyone to steal public money. In the 2017 assembly polls, Rahul came up with the “chowkidar chor hai” jibe. In 2019, Modi has sought to make the word his own by launching his " main bhi chowkidar" (I too am watchman) campaign. This poll season, the PM’s use of the word in his speeches has seen a spike.
The Pulwama attack and Balakot airstrike has placed security and Pakistan in prominent focus for BJP. Modi has been referring to the Pulwama attacks in his campaign speeches as well, but Pakistan has found little direct mention off late.
Dynasty and Congress have been big targets for Modi, so it’s not surprising that Rahul would figure with some frequency in his political speeches. There has, as expected, been an increase in 2019, as polls draw closer.
Words linked to employment found a high mention in Modi’s speeches when he became PM, but there’s been a decline visible of late.
A theme that has seen heavy articulation since he took charge at the Centre. In Modi’s first three years, references to farmers featured high in his speeches. They have, however, dropped in the run-up to the polls.
A word the PM has used quite regularly. Not only is cattle an issue in several seats in the Hindi heartland, with the BJP campaign focus shifting to culture and heritage, mentions of cow in Modi’s speeches has risen.
For someone who swept to power with the slogan of “ sabka saath, sabka vikas”, it is not surprising that development has been a preferred theme for Modi. However, in recent election speeches, mentions are on the decline.
A word that underpins a core stance of BJP, it has seen its fair share of mentions by Modi. Peak usage from the podium for this word came in the middle of 2017. With election season underway, ‘mandir’ mentions are seeing an uptick.
The PM regularly brings up the mention of ‘Defence’ in his speeches to evoke patriotism. Hardly surprising that post the Pulwama attack in February 2019 the references have surged. In fact, Modi is now under the Election Commission scanner for a campaign speech in which he exhorted first-time voters to dedicate their ballot to those who died in the Pulwama terrorist attack and those who took part in the Balakot offensive against Pakistan.
With his government having initiated several ambitious infrastructure projects, particularly in the transport and electricity sectors, they find regular mentions from the podium. They peaked, though in Oct-Dec 2017.
Image recast in the USA
The Times of India, June 9, 2016
Displaying an unsentimental, hard-headed selfinterest, PM Modi wasted no time in visiting the US after assuming office, putting aside previous controversies as he grasped the importance of the bilateral relationship -and the potential for some smart image management. Not unlike his predecessor Manmohan Singh, the new PM understood that much of India's aspirations for a global role as an economic and military power would remain unfulfilled without accessing US technology and finance.
Modi managed to hit it off with US President Obama -a feat that still puzzles many (New York Times called it the most unlikely friendship Obama could have struck with any world leader) -and this was crucial to lifting ties.
The bemusement is in good measure due to the alleged contrast between Obama's commitment to minority rights and dissent and Modi's purported moorings in the “rightwing paramilitary“. But Modi side-stepped stereotypes and connected with Obama on issues like climate change and China and leveraged his big parliamentary majority .
An oped in the Washington Post last year declared that trade, investment and technology would be the bedrock of a partnership for the 21st century to harmonise India's ambitious development agenda while sustaining US growth.
In his first visit, Modi used the Madison Square event to tap overseas Indian sentiment and the enthusiastic reception was duly noted by global media. It was an effective strategy to counter activists raising human rights issues.
The PM's warm relationship with Obama was crucial for his plans to push Indian interests ranging from Pakistan, China, technology , investments, defence, climate change to admission to the NSG.
Bilateral ties with China would always be difficult, not the least because economic and military muscle gave the Chinese a sense of superiority. The US was essential to India's efforts to seek a more eq uitable deal from China.
Years of tough sanctions related to dual use technology had hurt Indian science and industry with even improving monsoon predictions becoming a labourious task in the absence of sophisticated computers and satellite data.
The relationship gained momentum under Manmohan Singh with the nuclear deal being concluded during UPA-1, but ties lost steam in his second term.
Though his win in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections -and the decimation of Congress -gave him huge legitimacy , Modi still needed to shake off the shadow the Gujarat riots cast on his career at home and more particularly abroad. Four visits to the US have helped him do that in large measure.
Threats to life: 2014-
Amid reports of a Maoist conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, here's a look at some of the high-profile threats to the PM's life in the recent past:
Threat 1 (Oct, 2013)
Six persons were killed and several others injured when a series of blasts rocked Modi's Hunkaar Rally in Patna on October 27, 2013. Modi, then the CM of Gujarat, had helped avert mass panic and a stampede by exhorting the audience to maintain peace and unity at all costs.
Total nine bombs were planted at the Gandhi Maidan venue by terrorists owing allegiance to banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Ten were held and charged for their involvement in the blasts.
Threat 2 (May 2015)
A WhatsApp message threatening to blow up PM Narendra Modi’s stage ahead of a rally at the ancestral village of Pt Deendayal Upadhyay to mark the first year of the BJP government sent the entire intelligence and police force in a tizzy.
Though police officials termed the threat an act of some "distorted mind", security in and around the venue was beefed up and extra vigil was mounted in the district. UP police later identified the sender of the WhatsApp message and took his brother into custody.
Threat 3 (Feb 2017)
In the run up to the UP assembly polls, a senior police official claimed threat to PM Modi’s life during a BJP campaign rally in Mau district. According to ASP RK Singh, Rasool Pati, an accused in the Haren Pandya murder case, and his associates planned to attack the prime minister’s convoy with a rocket launcher and explosives. Modi went ahead with the rally under tight security cover.
Threat 4 (June 2017)
Kerala DGP TP Senkumar claimed PM Modi faced terrorist threat during his visit to Kochi to flag off the city's new metro rail. "There was a big threat perception here on the day of the Prime Minister's visit... There was a terror module here during his visit," Senkumar said days after Modi had wrapped up his visit. When asked to elaborate on this "terror threat", the DGP refused to disclose details.
Threat 5 (June, 2018)
Pune police claimed that Maoists were planning to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A letter found in the house of Delhi-resident Rona Wilson, arrested for alleged Maoist "links", talks about the ultras mulling "Rajiv Gandhi-type incident" and suggesting that Modi should be targeted during his road shows.
Wilson was among five people arrested from Mumbai, Nagpur and Delhi in connection with Elgar Parishad held in December and the subsequent Bhima-Koregaon violence in Maharashtra.
Words used most frequently
The words used most frequently by Narendra Modi during the 2019 elections-I
The words used most frequently by Narendra Modi during the 2019 elections-Ii
2019/ Modi visit pushes record higher
Breaking all records, over 7 lakh pilgrims visited Kedarnath shrine in Uttarakhand in the first 45 days of this year’s Char Dham Yatra. The number is the highest ever in the recorded history of the Himalayan shrine that witnessed the worst natural calamity in 2013 which claimed thousands of lives.
While around 7.32 lakh people visited the shrine during the six-month-long yatra in 2018, this year, the number has already touched 7.35 in the first 45 days. In fact, there were some days when the shrine recorded a footfall of over 36,000, which is also a first. The highest footfall was witnessed on June 7 when 36,179 devotees offered prayers in Kedarnath, followed by June 10, when 36,021 people visited the temple.
Authorities, meanwhile, said that the credit for such a high turnout goes to PM Modi, whose frequent visits to the temple have made people follow the same path.
CEO of Badri-Kedar Temple Committee BD Singh said, “We still have five more months to go. We are hopeful that this year footfall will cross 15 lakh by the end of the yatra in October.”
BL Rana, general manager of Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam, also gave the credit for the high turnout to the PM. “Kedarnath is very close to the Prime Minister’s heart and he closely monitors all development works in the area. The demand for the meditation cave has also increased among the people after the PM’s visit,” he said.
According to official records, in 2013, around 3.33 lakh people visited Kedarnath and just after the flash floods, the number decreased to 40,922 in 2014. While, 1.54 lakh devotees visited the shrine in 2015, the number increased to 3.09 lakh in 2016. In 2017, 4.71 lakh pilgrims worshipped in the shrine and the number increased to 7.32 lakh in 2018.