NARENDRA MODI: India’s nationalist powerhouse | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 11, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, April 11, 2019

NARENDRA MODI: India’s nationalist powerhouse

Stern, sharp and shrewd, Narendra Modi fought his way off the streets to become one of India’s most popular and polarising prime ministers.

There is no middle ground between admirers and adversaries of the man -- now running for a second term as leader -- who helped his father run a railway station tea stall before launching his career in nationalist politics.

The 68-year-old makes much of his humble roots while unashamedly portraying himself as the tough guy protecting India’s national security and Hindu values, pressing its claims to be the world’s rising power.

Doubts have been expressed over his economic reforms.But little mud has stuck and few dispute that “NaMo”, as he is known, drives India’s national agenda while expertly baiting neighbouring Pakistan and the opposition Congress party, especially its leader Rahul Gandhi.

His Twitter following of more than 46 million makes him one of the world’s most-tracked leaders.

Narendra Damodardas Modi is said to have joined the Hindu hardline Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) nationalist group at the age of eight and left home as a teenager, abandoning a marriage arranged by his family, to become an RSS activist.

An assiduously hard worker, Modi rose through the ranks of the RSS and its partner BJP to become chief minister of his Gujarat home state in 2001. Bolstering the Gujarat economy and espousing outspoken nationalist causes provided the launchpad for him to lead the BJP into the 2014 general election. The country was seduced by his story and the party won the biggest landslide in India’s history, decimating Congress.

Modi’s personalised politics will be the “defining” issue of the election, even his party admits, while many experts say that Modi is carrying his party through this election.

“Take away Modi and 90 percent of the speeches of the opposition leaders would be over,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Indian Express in an interview published Monday.

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