India

Narendra Modi keeps family and hometown at arm's length

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Media captionThe BBC's Andrew North travelled to Narenda Modi's home state of Gujarat

When he was a boy, Narendra Modi, India's new prime minister, loved to fly kites.

His younger brother, Prahlad, remembers how he had to hold the spool of string while Narendra did the flying.

"If I refused, he would get angry and he would hit me," says Prahlad before admitting: "I am still scared of him, even today."

They hardly ever see each other now.

Narendra Modi has long kept his family at a distance, something he trumpeted during his election campaign by declaring that he had "no-one to be corrupt for".

'Nothing to fear'

Prahlad Modi told the BBC he was proud his brother was about to become prime minister.

India, he believes, needs his "go-getting" attitude to turn round its slowing economy.

Image caption The Modi brothers hail from the small town of Vadnagar, in northern Gujarat

There is an air of sadness as he talks about him, inside the small tyre shop he runs in Ahmedabad, the main city in Gujarat state, where Narendra Modi has been chief minister since 2001.

"I think he still loves me," he says. But clear in his memories are Narendra Modi's domineering style and temper.

So should India be scared too?

"Anyone who is concerned for the well-being of the country has nothing to fear," says Prahlad Modi. "Only those who work against the country need to be scared."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Narendra Modi who has been chief minister of the western state of Gujarat since 2001

Many Indians remain deeply concerned, though, about the prospect of Narendra Modi as prime minister, largely because of questions over his actions during communal riots in Gujarat in 2002, during which at least 1,000 people died, most of them Muslims.

His brother dismisses such concerns as "a drama created by the opposition to tarnish him" and rejects accusations that he is prejudiced against Muslims.

"They have nothing to fear from him. Narendra-bhai used to play with Muslims when he was young," he says, using an affectionate form of address to an older person in Hindi.

'Big man'

In the small town of Vadnagar in northern Gujarat, the home where the brothers grew up has been knocked down and replaced, and all the family have moved on.

Narendra Modi himself left while still in his teens, devoting himself instead to serving a Hindu nationalist organisation called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Image caption This house stands on the site of the building where the Modis grew up

But many of their neighbours remain, and even some of Narendra Modi's childhood friends.

His name lives on too - the street is known as "Modi area", because almost everyone here has the same family or caste name.

They were preparing their celebrations even before the results of the election were announced, with plans to buy huge boxes of ladoos, or sweets.

"Everyone voted for Modi here," says Dashrathlal Modi, who lives one door down from where the future prime minister was born in 1950.

"We didn't care about the local politicians. It was just a vote for Modi."

A Hindu temple stands at the top of the street, and cows wander past as people recall their memories, including Narendra Modi boasting that he would one day become powerful.

"Narendra-bhai told me that the lines on his palms foretold that he will be a 'big man' one day," remembers Shyamal Das, who says the elder Modi brother was the undisputed leader of their local boy's gang. "He said to me: 'I will always travel on wheels.'"

It was the early 1960s and with few Indians owning a car even in the cities, let alone in this deprived backwater, that would have seemed a bold claim.

'Let down'

But not of all of Vadnagar is so impressed by its most famous son today.

At the town railway station, where the young Narendra Modi used to help his father sell cups of tea on the trains that stopped there, some gathering around the tea stalls feel he had let the area down.

Image caption Some at Vadnagar's station believe Narendra Modi should be looking after their community more

"He's taken all the land and given it to big business," complains one farmer, in between sips of sweet tea.

"Narendra Modi has been chief minister for more than 10 years and all we've had here are a few roads and electricity," says another. "But otherwise nothing has changed."

Their complaints are a reflection too of engrained views on how Indian politicians should behave - looking after their family first and then their community, in return for local votes.

They are traditions that Mr Modi has said he does not want to uphold - and Prahlad Modi has little expectation things will change when he is prime minister.

"I wish he would help the next generation of our family. But I am sure he won't," he says. "He won't even offer tea to someone without a reason - especially his family."

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