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Who is Narendra Modi? Polarizing Indian leader poised to win 2024 elections

Who is Narendra Modi?  Polarizing Indian leader poised to win 2024 elections

 


A decade in power and seeking a third consecutive term as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi said he had big plans for India and no one need be frightened by them.

Coming from a leader who was once persona non grata in the United States and the United Kingdom for its alleged role in sectarian violence, the assurance betrays a climate of the fear and uncertainty that Mr. Modis' leadership has engendered for parts of Indian society.

It is this sense of fear and uncertainty that opposition parties and Mr Modi's critics are seeking to exploit as India prepares to vote. national elections which begin on April 19 and will end with the announcement of the results on June 4.

They claim India is sliding towards dictatorship due to Mr. Modi's authoritarian tendencies and the sectarian politics of his BJP, Hindu nationalist in power.

Another term of the BJP government would prove disastrous for India and its global reputation as the world's largest democracy, said Dr Shubranshu Mishra, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Exeter. The independent.

Mr. Modi took power in 2014 and retained it in 2019, riding a rising tide of revanchist Hindu nationalism. He is essentially relying on the same call to win a third term, which is not the case. Prime Minister led since the first, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1962.

Mr. Modi, 73, has long presented himself as an outsider from a modest family background, unlike most of his predecessors and current rivals from political dynasties and socio-cultural elites.

He was born into a family of grocers in the town of Vadnagar in the western state of Gujarat and claimed to have spent his teenage years running a tea stall with his brother near a bus station.

At the age of 17, he left his wife Jashodaben to live an ascetic life. He has no children and the only glimpses into his closely guarded private life have been his occasional meetings with his mother, Heeraben Modi, until his death in 2022.

Narendra Modi is blessed by his mother Heeraben Modi in 2014 (Getty Images)Narendra Modi is blessed by his mother Heeraben Modi in 2014 (Getty Images)

Narendra Modi is blessed by his mother Heeraben Modi in 2014 (Getty Images)

From a young age, Mr. Modi was drawn to the ideology of Hindu nationalism and attended classes run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the mothership of a network of right-wing Hindu groups, including the BJP. It was there that he would have perfected his oratory art as a Pracharakor propagandist.

He moved laterally from the Sangh to the BJP in 1987, just as the party was gaining wider support among the Hindu majority with its militant advocacy for the destruction of the medieval Babri Mosque, which he claimed had was built on the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram.

The mosque was eventually demolished by a Hindu mob in 1992 and Mr. Modi, now Prime Minister, inaugurated a grand Ram temple at its site earlier this year.

The construction of the temple and especially the highly publicized and choreographed inauguration were seen by its detractors as an attempt by Mr. Modi to consolidate his appeal among his Hindu nationalist supporters.

Narendra Modi attends a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh rally in Adalaj, Gujarat, in 2009 (AFP via Getty Images)Narendra Modi attends a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh rally in Adalaj, Gujarat, in 2009 (AFP via Getty Images)

Narendra Modi attends a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh rally in Adalaj, Gujarat, in 2009 (AFP via Getty Images)

After several years as a mid-level functionary in the BJP's national setup, Mr. Modi was sent to his home state of Gujarat to stabilize the party's government there. Against all odds, he led the BJP to victory in the December 2002 elections.

Victory, however, came thanks to a sectarian pogrom in which Mr. Modis' administration has been accused of being complicit. The pogrom, marked by massacres and gang rapes, left around 2,000 Muslims dead.

Mr. Modi has rejected the allegations and a Supreme Court-ordered investigation found no evidence to prosecute him.

Yet these allegations made him a pariah in the West for years. He was refused entry to the United States and the United Kingdom due to concerns about human rights abuses for years, until it became clear that he would become Prime minister.

At home, Mr. Modi was now firmly established as the face of Hindu nationalism in Gujarat and beyond, and won consecutive national elections in 2007 and 2012. He introduced a series of high-profile infrastructure and industrial policies which he sold to the rest of the country as a model for the development of Gujarat.

The rhetorical fusion of Hindu nationalism and material development would prove powerful as Mr Modi sets his sights on New Delhi.

Opposition Congress supporters burn old 500 rupee notes and a poster of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest against demonetization (AFP via Getty Images)Opposition Congress supporters burn old 500 rupee notes and a poster of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest against demonetization (AFP via Getty Images)

Opposition Congress supporters burn old 500 rupee notes and a poster of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest against demonetization (AFP via Getty Images)

Ahead of the 2014 national elections, the BJP nominated Mr Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. The BJP won the elections handily, abandoning the Congressgrappling with multiple corruption scandals, to its worst defeat ever.

After taking office, Mr. Modi presented himself as the leader who would finally make India a developed country, announcing a series of programs to build and modernize roads, railways, power plants, airports, seaports, public transport and almost 40 million concrete housing units for residents. poor people.

He has also been criticized for decisions such as night demonetization of 500 and 1,000 rupee notes to supposedly crack down on black money and terrorist financing, and the management of the border crisis with China.

At the same time, it has been blamed for rising sectarian violence, particularly against Muslims, and increasing repression of dissent, press freedom and political opposition.

None of this could stop his triumphant march to power in 2019.

In his second term, Mr. Modi strove to carry out the BJP's pet projects. His government adopted a citizenship law considered discriminatory against Muslims, concerninginvoked the autonomous status of autonomy of Jammu and Kashmirand built the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

A view of the Ram Mandir on the day of its consecration ceremony in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024 (Getty Images)A view of the Ram Mandir on the day of its consecration ceremony in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024 (Getty Images)

A view of the Ram Mandir on the day of its consecration ceremony in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024 (Getty Images)

Mr. Modi rejected criticism of his policies and priorities, saying his government works for the welfare of all citizens without discrimination.

His government, however, had to withdraw a series of laws aimed at restructuring the Indian agricultural sector after thousands of farmers launched a year-long protest in the capital.

Nonetheless, Mr Modi enjoys a 75% approval rating, according to Morning Consult, the highest among 25 world leaders tracked by the US data intelligence firm.

This will be the last opportunity for people to save democracy in India. If Narendra Modi wins new elections, there will be a dictatorship in the country, Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the opposition Congress party, said in February. THE BJP will govern India like (Vladimir) Putin in Russia.

If rights are ignored, then dictatorship will be imminent.

He made the comments after several prominent opposition leaders were investigated, raided and imprisoned by federal agencies controlled by Mr Modis' government.

Professor Mishra echoed the concerns. India's upcoming elections will pose serious challenges to the country's democratic and secular values, he said. The ruling party's authoritarian grip on various institutions, including the Election Commission and Hindu majoritarianism that targets minority groups, are major concerns.

The outcome of the elections will determine whether India can preserve its democratic and secular values ​​or continue its democratic decline under the leadership of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Modi.

Mr Modi, who has not given a press conference during his ten years in power, sought to allay such concerns ahead of the election when he told news agency ANI that his big plans were for the overall development of the country.

My decisions are not meant to scare anyone or diminish anyone, he said when asked about his remark that his decade in power was just a caravan.

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