Born into humble beginnings to a family of grocers in Mehsana district (present-day Gujarat) of erstwhile Bombay state, Narendra Damodardas Modi’s story is one of true inspiration.
On 17th September 2021, India’s ‘Pradhan Sevak’ enters his 71st year. Our party launched ‘Seva and Samarpan Abhiyan’ to mark the great man’s 20 years in public service. Although the number of years in public service is 20, it is safe to say that the man’s whole life has been of selfless service.
This piece is a simple attempt to briefly shed light on certain aspects of the man’s decades-long journey.
Humble beginnings, introduction to RSS
At the tender age of 8, a young Modi, who by then was already a budding debater, got introduced to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and began attending its local training sessions. This influence would go on to shape his whole journey. Having got inducted as a balswayamsevak (Junior cadet) under the tutelage of Lakshmanrao Inamdar @Vakil Saheb, Modi commenced his journey in the organisation, which holds service for the nation as the utmost priority in its agenda.
A young Modi; becoming a full-time Pracharak
He travelled all across northern and North Eastern India in his youth, visiting Hindu ashrams founded by Swami Vivekananda, who has always remained an immense influence in his life and work.
At 21, he joined a Jana Sangh ‘Satyagraha’ in Delhi led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee to enlist for the battlefield in the 1971 Indo Pakistan war. However, this valiant act got him into jail for a brief period as the then central govt had disallowed open support to the Mukti Bhani. After the 1971 war, he became a full-time RSS Pracharak.
Emergency, evading arrests
During the infamous Emergency, Modi was general secretary of an RSS committee coordinating opposition to the emergency in Gujarat. As the RSS was declared a banned outfit during the period, he was compelled to go underground and frequently travelled in disguise to evade unlawful arrests. In his many disguises (which are well documented), he even dressed as a monk and once as a Sikh. After the emergency, in 1978, Modi became a regional organiser in the RSS, overseeing its activities in Surat, Vadodara.
BJP: a new calling
In 1985, he was assigned to the BJP. His unparalleled political acumen was first seen in the 1986 Ahmedabad Municipal Elections, which BJP won comfortably.
The following year, he was elected Organising Secretary of the party’s Gujarat unit. His rise did not stop there. In 1990, he was named a member of the BJP’s national election committee, playing key roles in organising L.K. Advani’s ‘Ram Yath Ratra’ (1990) and Murli Manohar Joshi’s ‘Ekta Yatra’ (Journey for Unity; 1991-92).
In 1992, he took a short hiatus from active politics instead of focusing on establishing a school in Ahmedabad.
However, a man of such qualities could not be kept away from the service domain for long. In 1994, he returned to electoral politics, and his strategies were considered imperative to the party’s victory in the 1995 state assembly elections. The following year, he was elected National Secretary of the party and began to look after the party’s affairs in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
In 1998, with his responsibilities in the election committee for the 1998 assembly elections in Gujarat, his actions were crucial in ending the factional divisions within the party. His strategy was also credited with the party securing an overall majority in that election.
Following this, he was promoted to BJP General Secretary (Organisation).
As Gujarat CM
In 2001, Gujarat came calling; this time, the calling was different from those he had received earlier in his political journey. Modi was a man in demand. He was to take full responsibility for Gujarat; as its Chief Minister.
Moreover, Gujarat was a wounded state at the time due to the Bhuj Earthquake. The central leadership deemed Modi as the perfect man to heal the state and its people from the turmoil and wounds of the Bhuj disaster. On 7th October 2001, he was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Gujarat Riots, Rajdharma
The 2002 Gujarat Riots. A stern test of leadership and character which any other man or woman in his position would have certainly failed. But failure was not an option for Modi Ji.
Modi, by then, was already known for his ability to tread choppy political waters with tact and aplomb. But this was beyond politics. It was a test of humanity. Here he showed his other side, being a brother, son, friend, father to those affected by the three-day horrors of violence. His touch with the ground realities ensured that Gujarat healed together. Here, he had expressed and performed ‘Rajdharma’ of the highest order.
In the 2002 elections in Gujarat, the BJP retained power under Modi’s leadership with a thumping majority, winning 127 out of the 182 seats in the state assembly.
Gujarat and the growth journey
Under his leadership, Gujarat embarked on a journey of growth and economic development. Ranging from groundwater conservation to investor-friendly policies, the state reached great heights.
Having been an active environmental activist for decades, I cannot help but admire Gujarat’s trajectory of progress in its groundwater conservation journey during Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister. Support to the NGOs of the field was a unique but much-needed element. By December 2008, half a million structures had been built, of which 1,13,738 were check dams; to recharge aquifers. 60 of 112 tehsils which had depleted the water table in 2004 had regained their normal groundwater levels by 2011. This resulted in the state’s production of genetically modified cotton becoming the largest in the country. From 2001 to 2010, the state’s agricultural growth rate was recorded at 10.97 per cent, the highest of any state.
Adding another feather to his cap of being a pro-investment leader was Tata’s decision to shift production of its Nano car from West Bengal to Gujarat in 2008. Many companies soon followed Tata to Gujarat.
Detractors wildly accuse our Prime Minister of being ‘anti farmer’, an accusation which reeks of absurdity in all sense. His actions and policies as Chief Minister of Gujarat and Prime Minister of our nation prove how close he holds the nation’s farmers to his heart. An example: Under his Chief Ministership in Gujarat, agricultural electricity was separated from other rural electricity; the former was rationed to fit scheduled irrigation demands, reducing its cost. This greatly assisted farmers in reducing their production costs.
Gujarat topped the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” rankings among Indian states for two consecutive years. In 2013, the state ranked first among Indian states for “economic freedom” by a report measured on governance, growth, citizens’ rights and labour and business regulations among the country’s 20 largest states.
With his service for the state and its people, he had catapulted Gujarat into the highest echelons of every parameter used to measure a state’s growth. Delhi came calling.
Making Indians believe again
The UPA’s second term and its endless scandals, controversies had made Indians lose faith in its leaders and the democratic apparatus. By 2012, it was clear that the BJP was the only credible choice to replace Congress and its allies in the 2014 general elections.
But every winning team needs its talisman, a unifying force capable of inducing conviction among its teammates.
Narendra Modi was the perfect fit to lead the NDA back to power. The NDA, led by the BJP, returned to power with a thumping majority. What followed is well documented and well known to all.
An India that is bold, decisive and unflinchingly poised in the face of adversity is one that was envisioned by Bose, Mukherjee, Vajpayee etc. Narendra Modi shares that very same vision, and the India that has been taking shape since the NDA came back to power under his leadership is ample proof. From wiping out the nation’s enemies on foreign soil to steering 1.3 billion Indians through an unforgiving global pandemic, Narendra Modi has led the nation with boldness and compassion. From driving daggers through the spine of black money holders to celebrating Diwali with the nation’s brave soldiers at the border, Narendra Modi exudes extreme love for his nation and its people.
Greatness comes in many forms. One that is of service and sacrifice is of the highest form. Narendra Modi Damodardas Modi, India’s ‘Pradhan Sevak’, lives and breathes for service to his nation. Nothing can be more exemplary.
(The writer is State Spokesperson of BJP Manipur Pradesh and also Chairman of Manipur Development Society)