Narendra Modi was born on 17 September 1950 to a Gujarati Hindu family of grocers in Vadnagar, Mehsana district, Bombay State (present-day Gujarat). He was the third of six children born to Damodardas Mulchand Modi (c. 1915–1989) and Hiraben Modi (born c. 1920). Modi’s family belonged to the Modh-Ghanchi-Teli (oil-presser) community, which is categorised as an Other Backward Class by the Indian government. He was falsely accused by Mayawati that he added his caste to OBC list as a political tool.
As a child, Modi helped his father sell tea at the Vadnagar railway station, and said that he later ran a tea stall with his brother near a bus terminus. Modi completed his higher secondary education in Vadnagar in 1967, where a teacher described him as an average student and a keen debater, with interest in theatre. Modi had an early gift for rhetoric in debates, and his teachers and students noted this. Modi preferred playing larger-than-life characters in theatrical productions, which has influenced his political image.
When eight years old, Modi discovered the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and began attending its local shakhas (training sessions). There, Modi met Lakshman Rao Inamadar, popularly known as Vakil Saheb, who inducted him as a bala swayam sevak (junior cadet) in the RSS and became his political mentor. While Modi was training with the RSS, he also met Vasant Gajendra Gadkari and Nathalal Jaghda, Bharatiya Jana Sangh leaders who were founding members of the BJP’s Gujarat unit in 1980.
Also in Narendra Modi’s childhood, in a custom traditional to his caste, his family arranged a betrothal to a girl, Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi, leading to their marriage when they were teenagers. Sometime thereafter, he abandoned the further marital obligations implicit in the custom and left home, the couple going on to lead separate lives, neither marrying again, and the marriage itself remaining unmentioned in Modi’s public pronouncements for many decades. In April 2014, shortly before the national elections that swept him to power, Modi publicly affirmed that he was married and his spouse was Jashodaben; the couple has remained married, but estranged.
Modi spent the ensuing two years travelling across Northern and North-eastern India, though few details of where he went have emerged. In interviews, Modi has described visiting Hindu ashrams founded by Swami Vivekananda the Belur Math near Kolkata, followed by the Advaita Ashrama in Almora and the Ramakrishna Mission in Rajkot. Modi remained only a short time at each, since he lacked the required college education. Vivekananda has been described as a large influence in Modi’s life.
In the early summer of 1968, Modi reached the Belur Math but was turned away, after which Modi wandered through Calcutta, West Bengal and Assam, stopping in Siliguri and Guwahati. Modi then went to the Ramakrishna Ashram in Almora, where he was again rejected, before travelling back to Gujarat via Delhi and Rajasthan in 1968–69. Sometime in late 1969 or early 1970, Modi returned to Vadnagar for a brief visit before leaving again for Ahmedabad. There, Modi lived with his uncle, working in the latter’s canteen at the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation.
In Ahmedabad, Modi renewed his acquaintance with Inamadar, who was based at the Hedgewar Bhavan (RSS headquarters) in the city. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, he stopped working for his uncle and became a full-time pracharak (campaigner) for the RSS, working under Inamadar. Shortly before the war, Modi took part in a non-violent protest against the Indian government in New Delhi, for which he was arrested; this has been cited as a reason for Inamadar electing to mentor him. Many years later Modi would co-author a biography of Inamadar, published in 2001.
In 1978 Modi received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from School of Open Learning at University of Delhi, graduating with a third class. Five years later, in 1983, he received a Master of Arts degree in political science from Gujarat University, graduating with a first class as an external distance learning student.
An Indian politician serving as the 14th and current Prime Minister of India since 2014. He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014 and is the Member of Parliament for Varanasi. Modi is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation. He is the first prime minister outside of the Indian National Congress to win two consecutive terms with a full majority and the second to complete more than five years in office after Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Modi was appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001 due to Keshubhai Patel’s failing health and poor public image following the earthquake in Bhuj. Modi was elected to the legislative assembly soon after. His administration has been considered complicit in the 2002 Gujarat riots, or otherwise criticised for its handling of it. A Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team found no evidence to initiate prosecution proceedings against Modi personally. His policies as chief minister, credited with encouraging economic growth, have received praise. His administration has been criticised for failing to significantly improve health, poverty and education indices in the state.
Modi led the BJP in the 2014 general election which gave the party a majority in the Indian lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, the first time for any single party since 1984. Modi’s administration has tried to raise foreign direct investment in the Indian economy and reduced spending on healthcare and social welfare programmes. Modi has attempted to improve efficiency in the bureaucracy; he has centralised power by abolishing the Planning Commission. He began a high-profile sanitation campaign, initiated a controversial demonetisation of high-denomination banknotes and weakened or abolished environmental and labour laws.
Following his party’s victory in the 2019 general election, his administration revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. His administration also introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act, which resulted in widespread protests across the country. Described as engineering a political realignment towards right-wing politics, Modi remains a figure of controversy domestically and internationally over his Hindu nationalist beliefs and his alleged role during the 2002 Gujarat riots, cited as evidence of an exclusionary social agenda.
In June 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India which lasted until 1977. During this period, known as “The Emergency”, many of her political opponents were jailed and opposition groups were banned. Modi was appointed general secretary of the “Gujarat Lok Sangharsh Samiti”, an RSS committee co-ordinating opposition to the Emergency in Gujarat. Shortly afterwards, the RSS was banned. Modi was forced to go underground in Gujarat and frequently travelled in disguise to avoid arrest.
He became involved in printing pamphlets opposing the government, sending them to Delhi and organising demonstrations. Modi was also involved with creating a network of safe houses for individuals wanted by the government, and in raising funds for political refugees and activists. During this period, Modi wrote a book in Gujarati, Sangharsh Ma Gujarat (In The Struggles of Gujarat), describing events during the Emergency. Among the people he met in this role was trade unionist and socialist activist George Fernandes, as well as several other national political figures. In his travels during the Emergency, Modi was often forced to move in disguise, once dressing as a monk, and once as a Sikh.
Modi became an RSS sambhag pracharak (regional organiser) in 1978, overseeing RSS activities in the areas of Surat and Vadodara, and in 1979 he went to work for the RSS in Delhi, where he was put to work researching and writing the RSS’s version of the history of the Emergency. He returned to Gujarat a short while later, and was assigned by the RSS to the BJP in 1985.
In 1987 Modi helped organise the BJP’s campaign in the Ahmedabad municipal election, which the BJP won comfortably; Modi’s planning has been described as the reason for that result by biographers. After L. K. Advani became president of the BJP in 1986, the RSS decided to place its members in important positions within the BJP; Modi’s work during the Ahmedabad election led to his selection for this role, and Modi was elected organising secretary of the BJP’s Gujarat unit later in 1987.
Modi rose within the party and was named a member of the BJP’s National Election Committee in 1990, helping organise L. K. Advani’s 1990 Ram Rath Yatra in 1990 and Murli Manohar Joshi’s 1991–92 Ekta Yatra (Journey for Unity). However, he took a brief break from politics in 1992, instead establishing a school in Ahmedabad; friction with Shanker Singh Vaghela, a BJP MP from Gujarat at the time, also played a part in this decision. Modi returned to electoral politics in 1994, partly at the insistence of Advani, and as party secretary, Modi’s electoral strategy was considered central to the BJP victory in the 1995 state assembly elections.
In November of that year Modi was elected BJP national secretary and transferred to New Delhi, where he assumed responsibility for party activities in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The following year, Shanker Singh Vaghela, a prominent BJP leader from Gujarat, defected to the Indian National Congress (Congress, INC) after losing his parliamentary seat in the Lok Sabha elections. Modi, on the selection committee for the 1998 Assembly elections in Gujarat, favoured supporters of BJP leader Keshubhai Patel over those supporting Vaghela to end factional division in the party. His strategy was credited as key to the BJP winning an overall majority in the 1998 elections,and Modi was promoted to BJP general secretary (organisation) in May of that year.
In accordance with Ghanchi tradition, Modi’s marriage was arranged by his parents when he was a child. He was engaged at age 13 to Jashodaben, marrying her when he was 18. They spent little time together and grew apart when Modi began two years of travel, including visits to Hindu ashrams. Reportedly, their marriage was never consummated, and he kept it a secret because otherwise he could not have become a ‘pracharak’ in the puritan Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Modi kept his marriage secret for most of his career. He acknowledged his wife for the first time when he filed his nomination for the 2014 general elections. Modi maintains a close relationship with his mother, Hira Ben.
A vegetarian and teetotaler, Modi has a frugal lifestyle and is a workaholic and introvert. Modi’s 31 August 2012 post on Google Hangouts made him the first Indian politician to interact with citizens on a live chat. Modi has also been called a fashion-icon for his signature crisply ironed, half-sleeved kurta, as well as for a suit with his name embroidered repeatedly in the pinstripes that he wore during a state visit by US President Barack Obama, which drew public and media attention and criticism. Modi’s personality has been variously described by scholars and biographers as energetic, arrogant, and charismatic.
He had published a Gujarati book titled Jyoti Punj in 2008, containing profiles of various RSS leaders. The longest was of M. S. Golwalkar, under whose leadership the RSS expanded and whom Modi refers to as Pujniya Shri Guruji (“Guru worthy of worship”). According to The Economic Times, his intention was to explain the workings of the RSS to his readers and to reassure RSS members that he remained ideologically aligned with them. Modi authored eight other books, mostly containing short stories for children.
The nomination of Modi for the prime ministership drew attention to his reputation as “one of contemporary India’s most controversial and divisive politicians. During the 2014 election campaign the BJP projected an image of Modi as a strong, masculine leader, who would be able to take difficult decisions. Campaigns in which he has participated have focused on Modi as an individual, in a manner unusual for the BJP and RSS. Modi has relied upon his reputation as a politician able to bring about economic growth and “development”. Nonetheless, his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots continues to attract criticism and controversy. Modi’s hardline Hindutva philosophy and the policies adopted by his government continue to draw criticism, and have been seen as evidence of a majoritarian and exclusionary social agenda.
Modi was named the Best Chief Minister in a 2007 nationwide survey by India Today. In March 2012, he appeared on the cover of the Asian edition of Time Magazine, one of the few Indian politicians to have done so. He was awarded Indian of the Year by CNN-IBN news network in 2014. In 2014, 2015 and 2017, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He was also declared winner of the Time magazine reader’s poll for Person of the Year in 2014 and 2016.
Forbes Magazine ranked him the 15th Most Powerful Person in the World in 2014 and the 9th Most Powerful Person in the World in 2015, 2016 and 2018. In 2015, Modi was ranked the 13th Most Influential Person in the World by Bloomberg Markets Magazine. Modi was ranked fifth on Fortune Magazine’s first annual list of the “World’s Greatest Leaders” in 2015. In 2017, Gallup International Association (GIA) conducted a poll and ranked Modi as third top leader of the world. In 2016, a wax statue of Modi was unveiled at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London.
In 2015 he was named one of Time’s “30 Most Influential People on the Internet” as the second-most-followed politician on Twitter and Facebook. In 2018 he was the third most followed world leader on Twitter, and the most followed world leader on Facebook and Instagram. In October 2018, Modi received UN’s highest environmental award, the ‘Champions of the Earth’, for policy leadership by “pioneering work in championing” the International Solar Alliance and “new areas of levels of cooperation on environmental action.
He was conferred the 2018 Seoul Peace Prize in recognition of his dedication to improving international co-operation, raising global economic growth, accelerating the Human Development of the people of India by fostering economic growth and furthering the development of democracy through anti-corruption and social integration efforts. He is the first Indian to win the award. In January 2019, PM Narendra Modi, a biographic film starring Vivek Oberoi as Modi, was announced.
Following his second swearing-in ceremony as Prime Minister of India, a picture of Modi was displayed on the facade of the ADNOC building in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Premiered on 12 August 2019, Modi appeared in a special episode of Discovery Channel’s show Man vs Wild with the host Bear Grylls, becoming the second world leader after Barack Obama to appear in the adventure/survival show. In the show he trekked the jungles and talked about nature and wildlife conservation with Grylls. The episode was shot in Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand and was broadcast in 180 countries along India.
The Texas India Forum hosted a community event in honour of Modi on 22 September 2019 at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The event was attended by over 50,000 people and several American politicians including President Donald Trump, making it the largest gathering for an invited foreign leader visiting the United States other than the Pope. At the same event, Modi was presented with the Key to the City of Houston by Mayor Sylvester Turner. He was awarded the Global Goalkeeper Award on 24 September 2019 in New York City by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in recognition for the Swachh Bharat Mission and “the progress India has made in providing safe sanitation under his leadership”.