Profile: Narendra Modi

  • 26 September 2014
  • From the section India
PM Narendra Modi at the launch of his "Make in India" initiative in Delhi, India on Sept. 25, 2014.
Image caption Narendra Modi is seen as a dynamic and efficient leader

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is a divisive politician - loved and loathed in equal measure.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader took over as the prime minister in May after leading his party to a spectacular win.

Mr Modi, who served as the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat since 2001, is regarded as a dynamic and efficient politician who helped to make his state an economic powerhouse.

But he also is accused of doing little to stop the 2002 religious riots when more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed - allegations he has consistently denied.

Mr Modi became an international pariah after the riots - the US denied him visas and the UK cut off all ties with him. But a decade later, the controversial politician has been reintegrated into the political mainstream.

Mr Modi is en route to the US where he is due to address the UN General Assembly and hold bilateral talks with President Barack Obama.

Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping came calling on him and last month, he was hosted in Tokyo by Japan's PM Shinzo Abe.

In July, Britain's Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague visited India to look for investment opportunities for UK firms.

Mr Modi led the BJP's campaign for the April-May general election from the front, addressing 440 rallies across India.

At his packed election meetings, supporters wore his face masks and tea was offered at more than 1,000 stalls across India in paper cups with Mr Modi's pictures on them.

He also used social media effectively, even resorting to 3D holograms to communicate directly to voters.

A brilliant speaker, the Hindu hardline party's poster boy faced stiff internal differences when the BJP named him as its PM candidate.


In his election rallies, Mr Modi promised to revive India's slowing economy and his supporters say he has hit the ground running.

Since coming to power, he has pledged bank accounts for all, promised to build toilets in every school and unveiled a 'Make in India' campaign which promises to cut red tape and aims to turn the country into a global manufacturing hub.

Image caption Mr Modi is known for turning his home state Gujarat into an economic powerhouse
Image caption At Narendra Modi's election rallies, hundreds turned up wearing his face masks

But critics say he is yet to make any big-ticket announcement and that the key difference in his economic policy from the preceding Congress government is one of degree and not of kind.

Mr Modi's rise to the top position over the last couple of years has taken many by surprise.

For years, his critics said he could never be prime minister because of his alleged role in the Gujarat riots.

Although he has escaped censure so far, his close aide, Maya Kodnani, was convicted and sent to jail for 28 years.

He has never expressed any remorse or offered any apologies for the riots, and many Muslims displaced by the violence continue to live in ghettos near Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city and commercial capital.

Mr Modi's personal life has also been under scrutiny, with critics accusing him of deserting his wife Jashodaben.

He was 17 when the arranged marriage took place but the couple barely lived together. Mr Modi himself has always avoided questions about his personal life amid suggestions he wished to appear celibate for Hindu nationalist reasons.

In the run-up to the election, for the first time he publicly admitted that he was married.

RSS support

Analysts say the reason Mr Modi remains unscathed is the strong support he enjoys among senior leaders in the right-wing Hindu organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The RSS, founded in the 1920s with a clear objective to make India a Hindu nation, functions as an ideological fountainhead to a host of hardline Hindu groups - including Mr Modi's BJP with which it has close ties.

Image caption Mr Modi is known as a brilliant speaker

The RSS has a particularly strong base in Gujarat, and Mr Modi's ties to it were seen as a strength the organisation could tap into when he joined the state unit of the BJP in the 1980s.

Mr Modi has a formidable reputation as a party organiser, along with an ability for secrecy, which comes from years of training as an RSS "pracharak" or propagandist, analysts say.

He got his big break in the public arena when his predecessor in the state was forced to step down in the fallout from the earthquake in January 2001 that killed nearly 20,000 people.

And Mr Modi's colourful website beckons users in with more than a nod to his muscular nationalist campaign: "India First!" it proclaims to visitors.

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