Humble Beginnings: The Early Years
Shri Narendra Modi’s journey began in the by-lanes of Vadnagar, a small and nondescript town in North Gujarat’s Mehsana district. Born on 17th September 1950, 3 years after India attained freedom and within months of India becoming a Republic, Shri Narendra Modi is the third of the six children of Shri Damodardas Modi and Smt. Hiraba Modi. Vadnagar is a town that is steeped in history.
Archeological excavations suggest this was a vibrant centre of learning and spirituality. The Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang visited Vadnagar. Vadnagar also has a rich Buddhist history with as many as 10,000 Buddhist monks inhabiting the town centuries ago.
Shri Narendra Modi’s early years were far from what a fairy tale upbringing is like. The family belonged to the marginalized sections of society and had to struggle to make ends meet. The entire family lived in a small single storey house (approximately 40 feet by 12 feet). His father sold tea at the tea stall he set up in the local railway station. In his early years, Shri Narendra Modi too lent a hand to his father at the tea stall.
These formative years left a strong imprint on Shri Narendra Modi. As a child, Shri Narendra Modi balanced his studies, non-academic life and his contribution at the family tea stall. His schoolmates recall ‘Narendra’ as a diligent student with a penchant for debating and reading. He would spend hours and hours reading in the school library. Among the sports, he was very fond of swimming. Shri Narendra Modi had a wide range of friends from all the communities. As a child, he often celebrated both Hindu and Muslim festivals considering the large number of Muslim friends he had in the neighbourhood.
As a child Shri Narendra Modi dreamt of serving in the Army but destiny had other plans…
Yet, his thoughts, and dreams went way beyond a conventional life that began in the classroom and ended in the environs of an office. He wanted to go out there and make a difference to society…to wipe tears and suffering among people. At a young age, he developed an inclination towards renunciation and asceticism. He gave up eating salt, chilies, oil and jaggery. Reading the works of Swami Vivekananda cover to cover took Narendra Modi to a journey of spiritualism and laid the foundation for his own mission to fulfill Swami Vivekananda’s dream of a Jagad Guru Bharat.
If there is one word that characterized Narendra Modi’s childhood and stayed with him for the rest of his life, it is service. When floods wrecked havoc in the Tapi River, 9 year old he and his friends started a food stall and donated the proceeds for relief work. When the war with Pakistan was at its peak he set out on the railway station and served tea to the Jawans who were going and coming from the border. This was a small step but it displayed his firm resolve to answer the call of Mother India, even at a remarkably young age.
As a child, Shri Narendra Modi had one dream- to serve in the Indian Army. For many youngsters of his time, the Army was seen as the ultimate means of serving Mother India. As luck would have it, his family was dead opposed to the idea. Shri Narendra Modi was very keen to study in Sainik School located
in nearby Jamnagar but when the time came to pay the fees, there was no money at home. Surely, Narendra was disappointed. But, fate had different plans for this young boy who was disappointed on not being able to wear the uniform of a Jawan. Over the years he embarked on a unique path that took him across India in pursuit of the larger mission to serve humanity.
Most teenagers at the age of 17 think about their careers and try to enjoy the last remnants of childhood, but for Shri Narendra Modi at that age things were very different. At 17, he made an extraordinary decision, which changed the course of his life. He decided to leave home and travel across India.
His family was shocked but they accepted Narendra’s wish to leave the confines of his small town life. When the day finally dawned for him to leave, his mother prepared a sweet dish that is cooked on special occasions and applied the customary ‘tilak’ (a mark on the forehead).
Among the places that he travelled to included the Himalayas (where he stayed at Garudachatti), Ramkrishna Ashram in West Bengal and even the Northeast. These travels left a lasting impression on the youngster. He travelled across the expansive landscape of India exploring the various cultures in various parts of the country. It was also a time of spiritual awakening for him that connected him further to a man he always admired- Swami Vivekananda.
Narendra Modi during RSS Days
Narendra came back two years later, but stayed home only for two weeks. This time his destination was fixed and the mission was also clear- he was going to Ahmedabad, determined to work with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Set up in 1925, the RSS is a socio-cultural organisation working towards the economic, social and cultural regeneration of India.
His first brush with the RSS was at the tender age of eight when he would attend the local youth meetings of the RSS after a day’s work at the family tea stall. The reason for attending such meetings was far from political. It was here that he met one of the strongest influences on his life, Shri Laxmanrao Inamdar also known as ‘Vakil Saheb.’
The Road to Ahmedabad and Beyond
With this background, an almost 20-year-old Narendra arrived in Gujarat’s largest city Ahmedabad. He became a regular member of the RSS and his dedication and organisation skills impressed Vakil Saheb and others. In 1972 he became a Pracharak, giving his full time to the RSS. He shared his accommodation with other Pracharaks and followed a rigorous daily routine. The day began at 5:00 am and went on till late night. In the midst of such a hectic routine Narendra completed a degree in political science. He always valued education and learning.
As a Pracharak he had to travel all over Gujarat. Sometime between 1972 and 1973 he stayed at the Santram Mandir in Nadiad, which is a part of Kheda district. In 1973 Shri. Narendra Modi was given responsibility of working for a massive summit organised in Siddhpur where he met top leaders of the Sangh.
The atmosphere in Gujarat as well as India was very volatile when Shri kNarendra Modi was cutting his teeth as an activist. When he reached Ahmedabad, the city was reeling under one of the worst instances of communal rioting. In the rest of the nation too, the Congress Party, which had already suffered reverses in the 1967 Lok Sabha Elections had spilt between the faction of Smt. Indira Gandhi and the erstwhile syndicate, whose leaders included Shri Morarji Desai from Gujarat. Riding on the wave of a campaign to eradicate poverty, Smt. Gandhi swept back to power in 1971 Lok Sabha elections winning 352 out of 518 seats in the Lok Sabha, the popularly elected chamber of the Indian Parliament.
In the Gujarat State Elections too Smt. Gandhi replicated the strong performance, winning 140 out of 182 seats and capturing a gigantic voteshare of over 50%.
However the euphoria of the Congress and Smt.Gandhi faded as quickly as it was created. The dreams of quick reform and progress had given way to disillusionment amongst the common man in Gujarat. The struggles and sacrifices of political stalwarts such as Indulal Yagnik, Jivraj Mehta and Balwant Rai Mehta had been undone by the politics of greed.
By the end of the 1960s and early 1970s, corruption and misgovernance of the Congress government in Gujarat had reached new heights. The grand promise of ‘Garibi Hatao’ turned out to be an empty one as it gradually changed into ‘Garib Hatao’. The condition of the poor worsened, and in Gujarat the misery was compounded with a severe famine and steep price rise. Endless queues for basic commodities had become a common sight in the state. There was no respite for the common man.
Navnirman Movement: Youth Power
People’s discontent converted into public expressions of anger when in December 1973, a few students of an Engineering College in Morbi (Gujarat) protested against the exorbitant rise in their food bills. Similar protests began to take place across the state of Gujarat. These protests soon gained widespread support and ignited a state wide mass movement against the government, known as the ‘Navnirman Movement’.
Shri Narendra Modi was drawn to the mass movement that attracted all sections of society. The movement further strengthened when it gained the support of Shri Jayaprakash Narayan, a well-respected public figure and a known crusader against corruption. When Shri Jayaprakash Narayan came to Ahmedabad, Narendra had the unique opportunity to meet the JP himself. The several talks held by the veteran and other leaders left a strong impression on young Narendra.
Eventually student power won and the incumbent Congress Chief Minister had to resign. The joy however was short-lived. The dark clouds of authoritarianism struck on the midnight of 25th June 1975 when Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency.
The Dark Days of the Emergency
Smt. Gandhi feared she would lose her top post in the wake of an adverse court judgment that nullified her election, and thought the Emergency was the best step at that point. Democracy was under siege, freedom of speech curtailed and the leading lights of the opposition Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Shri LK Advani, Shri George Fernandes to Shri Morarji Desai were arrested.
Shri Narendra Modi was at the core of the anti-Emergency movement. He was a part of the Gujarat Lok Sangharsh Samiti (GLSS) that was formed to resist tyranny. He rose to become the General Secretary of GLSS, where his primary role was to coordinate between the activists across the state. This was tough considering the strict surveillance anti-Congress leaders and activists were subjected to.
There are several stories about Shri Narendra Modi’s work during the Emergency. One of them was how he rode a scooter and took a wanted senior RSS figure to a safe house. Similarly, it emerged that one of the leaders who was arrested was carrying his papers with him at the time of the arrest. The papers had to be retrieved at any cost. It fell on Shri Narendra Modi to ensure that the paper was duly retrieved from the police station where the leader was being held and that too in front of police force! When Shri Nanaji Deshmukh was arrested, he had with him a book containing the addresses of sympathizers. Shri Narendra Modi ensured that each and everyone was removed to safer locations so that nobody was arrested.
Among Shri Narendra Modi’s other responsibilities were to make travel arrangements for anti-Emergency activists to and from Gujarat. Sometimes his work meant that he had to move in disguise so that he was not recognized – he would be a Sikh gentleman one day and an elderly man with a beard the next.
One of Shri Narendra Modi’s most cherished experiences of the Emergency days was that he got to work with leaders and activists from different parties. Shri Narendra Modi wrote on his blog on June 2013: ‘‘For youngsters like me, the Emergency gave a wonderful opportunity to work with a wide spectrum of leaders and organisations that were fighting for the same goal. It enabled us to work beyond institutions we had been brought up with. From stalwarts of our family, Atal ji, Advani ji, late Shri Dattopant Thengadi, Late Shri Nanaji Deshmukh to socialists like Shri George Fernandes to Congressmen like Shri Ravindra Varma, who worked closely with Shri Morarjibhai Desai and were unhappy with the Emergency, we got inspired by leaders who belonged to different schools of thought. I was fortunate to have learnt a lot from people such as former Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth Shri Dhirubhai Desai, the humanist Shri CT Daru and former Chief Ministers of Gujarat Shri Babubhai Jashbhai Patel and Shri Chimanbhai Patel and prominent Muslim leader late Shri Habib-ur-Rehman. The struggle and determination of Late Shri Morarjibhai Desai, who steadfastly resisted the authoritarianism of the Congress and even left the party, comes to the mind.
It was as if a vibrant confluence of thoughts and ideologies had taken place for a larger good. Rising over differences of caste, creed, community or religion we were working with our common objective- to uphold the democratic ethos of the country. In December 1975, we worked for a very important meeting of all Opposition MPs in Gandhinagar. This meeting was also attended by Independent MPs late Shri Purushottam Mavalankar, Shri Umashankar Joshi and Shri Krishan Kant.’’
Outside the realm of politics Shri Narendra Modi got an opportunity to work with social organisations and several Gandhians. He vividly recalls meeting both Shri George Fernandes (whom he refers to as ‘George Sahab’) and Shri Nanaji Deshmukh. During those dark days he also kept writing about his experiences, which later took the shape of a book ‘Aapatkal Me Gujarat’ (Gujarat During the Emergency).
Beyond the Emergency
Like the Navnirman Movement, the Emergency was followed by a victory of the people. In the Parliamentary Elections of 1977 Smt. Indira Gandhi was routed. The people voted for change and in the new Janata Party Government, Jana Sangh leaders like Atal ji and Advani ji became important Cabinet Ministers.
Around the same time, Shri Narendra Modi was made the ‘Sambhaag Pracharak’ (equivalent of a regional organiser) as an appreciation of his activism and organisational work during the preceding years. He was given charge of South and Central Gujarat. At the same time he was called to Delhi and asked to chronicle the official RSS account of the Emergency Period. It meant more work and balancing both regional and national duties, which Shri Narendra Modi did with ease and efficiency.
His travels across Gujarat continued and increased through the early 1980s. This gave him the opportunity to visit every Taluka and almost every village in the state. This experience came very handy for him both as an organiser and as the Chief Minister. It gave him a first hand view of the problems people face and increased his resolve to work harder to solve them. When droughts, floods or riots struck he would lead the relief efforts too.
Shri Narendra Modi was happily immersed in his work but the elders in the RSS and the newly formed BJP felt otherwise, they wanted him to take on more responsibility and in 1987 another chapter began in Shri Narendra Modi’s life. From then on, he was as much on the streets as he would be formulating party strategies. He would have to work with Party leaders and sit with Karyakartas.
The boy from Vadnagar who left his home to serve the nation was about to take another giant step, but for him it was merely a continuation of his journey to bring smiles on the faces of his countrymen and women. After a Yatra to Kailash Mansarovar, Shri Narendra Modi got down to work as the General Secretary in the Gujarat BJP.
Innovative Field Organizer
It is well known that Shri Narendra Modi before he became Chief Minister and Prime Minister was an innovative Field Organizer. He has been involved in organisation work from Panchayat elections to Parliamentary elections.
His innovative organising skills are best understood from how he, as a key member of the Gujarat BJP organisation helped the BJP win the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation elections in the 1980s.
His innovation in Organizational Methods was focused on two things. First was division of labor by making sure every Karyakarta had a goal driven task and every task driven goal had a Karyakarta assigned to it. The second aspect was ensuring there was an emotional connect with the campaign. He was able to inspire that emotional connect by advocating a sense of ownership towards the City and its Governance.
The highlight of his community organizing during that campaign was micro-engagement with Karyakartas and engaged citizens through 1000 Community level Group Meetings in Ahmedabad. As a preparation for these 1000 Community level Meetings he had conducted a Training Course for 100 Karyakarta volunteers. The focus of the training was on what the Karyakarta was expected to do at a Community level Group Meeting – what issues to highlight, what arguments to make ?
This was a novel and radical move as far as election strategy was concerned.
The Community level group meetings would comprise of citizen groups of 25 to 30 where articulate speakers would be encouraged to speak up on the issues concerning the city. To get women engaged in the process he had started all Women’s Group Meetings in the afternoons after 2pm. He even managed to persuade Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji to come for a Municipal Campaign.
There is something to be said of the uniqueness of Shri Narendra Modi’s approach to Field Organisation. This blending of a structured process of volunteer training, volunteer mobilization with an emotional local connect created the ground conditions for the BJP victory in the Ahmedabad Municipal Election to provide Narendra Modi with a template for statewide Organisation of the Sanghatan with a micro-focus at the Local Level.
Such precision was repeated election after election, be it in Gujarat, Lok Sabha Elections as a General Secretary and when Shri Modi finally joined electoral politics in 2001. His ability to connect with people and understand their needs and aspirations has been truly beneficial.
Narendra Modi and the BJP Organisation
Did you know before he took the plunge in the world of electoral politics, Shri Narendra Modi had spent years in the BJP organisation, where he became known for his organisation skills and his grass root level approach that endeared him to party Karyakartas.
In 1987, Shri Narendra Modi joined the BJP where one of his first responsibilities was campaign for the 1987 Ahmedabad civic polls. A spirited campaign ensured the BJP won the polls.
In 1990, he was in the core team to strategize for the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections. The results of the elections brought an end to a decade of Congress rule. From 141 and 149 seats in 1980 and 1985 respectively, the Congress was down to 33 seats and the BJP won 67 seats and joined a coalition government with Shri Chimanbhai Patel. Though the alliance was short-lived, the BJP had emerged as a formidable force in Gujarat.
In 1995, again when Shri Narendra Modi was actively involved in the campaign for the Assembly Polls, the BJP decided for the first time to contest all 182 seats. In a historic outcome, the party won 121 seats and formed the Government.
In 1996 Shri Modi went to Delhi as the National Secretary of the BJP and was given the charge of key north-Indian states like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP formed a Government in Himachal Pradesh on its own in 1998 and formed coalitions in Haryana (1996), Punjab (1997) and Jammu and Kashmir. His responsibility in Delhi gave Shri Modi the opportunity to work with leaders like Sardar Parkash Singh Badal, Shri Bansi Lal and Shri Farooq Abdullah.
Shri Modi was entrusted with the role of General Secretary (Organisation), a very important position previously held by stalwarts like Sundar Singh Bhandari and Kushabhau Thakre. As the General Secretary (Organisation), his role in the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha campaigns was key. The BJP became the single largest party in both polls and formed the Government under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
While in the organisation, Shri Modi groomed new leadership, encouraged young Karyakartas and also emphasized on usage of technology for campaigning.
Man with the Midas Touch
The BJP’s journey is one of creating a ray of hope among the people of India. Wherever the BJP has reached today is due to hardwork, sweat and sacrifices of generations of Karyakartas. For us the Nation will always be above the Party. BJP will keep moving ahead with our motto of India first!”
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, who started his journey as a party worker rose to the topmost post in the country, because of his almost virtuoso like organizational sense and his keen ability to deconstruct and efficiently construct any job given to him. Even when he was a party worker he was noticed for his ability to deliver on any organizational role assignment. The party seniors sent him to troubleshoot in areas that were crucial to the growth of the party. Every time he was given a responsibility in the party – whether at organizing a rally or an election campaign in a hostile region – he always exceeded expectation.
Till date he stresses on the importance of focusing on the organizational role of workers at every level and speaks about it often.
Shri Narendra Modi made the speech on a sultry September afternoon in Ahmedabad, when he took stage to address Karyakartas (workers) of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), which is the youth wing of the BJP. The core of his speech was a message on the importance of booth management:
“Booth management is very important during elections. Just like you cannot win a battle without winning a fort, you cannot win an election without securing a victory at the polling booth. Winning at the polling booth is the real test of an election.”
In the same speech he said that it is important that the party workers stand shoulder to shoulder with the people during times of happiness and sadness and develop a personal connect with them.
Today, the world knows Shri Narendra Modi as a dynamic developmental figure who has transformed the landscape of his home state Gujarat. But before he earned the reputation of being a superlative organiser with the Midas Touch, he transformed every area he worked into a success story for the BJP.
For a man you are used to seeing sitting in a swanky chamber surrounded by the who’s who from India and the world, you would be surprised to know that Shri Narendra Modi’s first job in the RSS was to mop the floor at the RSS Headquarters in Ahmedabad!
His ‘duties’ included fetching milk in the morning and keeping the office premises clean. He would even wash clothes for senior Pracharaks, out of respect.
Despite Shri Modi’s reluctance to keep away from the rough and tumble of electoral politics he was asked by the Sangh leadership to join the BJP in 1987 as General Secretary. Since then there has been no looking back, as he won election after election and even helped others win elections for the BJP.
Municipal Elections: Small is Big
On joining the BJP in 1987, Shri Narendra Modi’s first test was the Municipal Elections in Ahmedabad that very year. Through the early 1980s the BJP tasted success in the Rajkot and Junagadh corporations and even won a few seats in the Assembly, but Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) remained the prize catch for a party seeking to establish a foothold in the state. The Congress that was firmly in the saddle in the Parliament, Vidhan Sabha and almost every Panchayat/Corporation in Gujarat was heavily discredited, but their strong-arm tactics made them a Party hard to beat.
Taking the challenge head-on, Shri Narendra Modi covered the entire city and worked tirelessly to ensure a victory for the BJP. Finally, the results were just what the BJP wanted. The Party became the ruling party in the AMC giving it an opportunity to serve people and expand its base in the years to come.
Success in the Vidhan Sabha: The Lotus Shines in Gandhinagar
Under the leadership of Madhavsinh Solanki and his KHAM coalition, the Congress won 141 seats with a voteshare of 51.04% in the 1980 Assembly Elections. The BJP won only 9 seats. Riding on the wave of a new social coalition along with a sympathy wave after Smt. Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Solanki led the Congress to another resounding victory winning 149 seats and a voteshare of 55.55%. For the BJP, it was disappointment once again. The party had to be content with 11 seats with a marginal improvement in voteshare (14.96%).
However, the Congress lacked any clear policy goal and all they could do was play politics around reservations and create/destroy social coalitions. The years between 1985 and 1988 witnessed severe droughts. The social fabric of Gujarat was torn apart by several bomb blasts.
As the Assembly Elections of 1990 approached, the mood was vehemently anti-Congress but the strong-arm tactics of the Party persisted. Shri Narendra Modi had his task cut out – to build a strong organisation that would complement the political leadership of the party to secure a mandate from the people.
On 27th February 1990, after a decade of Congress rule, Gujarat elected a new Vidhan Sabha. The results put the Janata Dal under Chimanbhai Patel at pole position with 70 seats and 29.36% of the votes. The BJP was close second with 67 seats and 26.69% votes. From a party that barely had a presence, the BJP emerged as a formidable force that was here to stay.
The second litmus test faced by the Gujarat BJP when Narendra Modi was very active as an organiser in the state unit was the 1995 Assembly Elections. The 1995 elections was the first time that the BJP contested all 182 Vidhan Sabha seats. It was also the first time it was contesting more seats than the Congress. The people of Gujarat gave a thumping victory to the BJP as the party won 121 seats. BJP’s voteshare shot upto 42.51%. For the Congress, it was a disappointing run and they managed only 45 seats. Shri Narendra Modi successfully strengthened the Organisation and exposed several cracks in the Congress armour.
The BJP formed the Government but the problems were far from over. There was intense factionalism within the BJP leaders in Gujarat and finally the Party lost its grip on power in 1996. By this time Shri Narendra Modi was already in Delhi, working as the National Secretary of the BJP.
Riding on the betrayal of their own leaders who formed splinter parties and joined hands with the Congress in 1996, the BJP returned to power in 1998 but by 2001 again the shadow of gloom was large. Successive natural calamities from flood, cyclone, drought and a deadly earthquake in Kutch started alienating people from the BJP. In these trying times, Shri Narendra Modi was asked to become the Chief Minister of Gujarat on 7th October 2001. A man who had never dreamt of power or office was given this responsibility with a single aim- to enhance the prestige of the faltering BJP government in Gujarat. With elections scheduled for March 2003, Shri Narendra Modi, again had his task cut out.
The unfortunate events in Godhra and the rest of Gujarat convinced Shri Narendra Modi that the state needed a new government to carry forward the process of healing and development for the state. He was also convinced that the BJP was the right Party to do so. That is why he dissolved the Assembly early and Elections were declared in December 2002.
During the campaign, Shri Narendra Modi became the most vilified figure in Indian politics. Political pundits derided him and pollsters called the Election in favour of the Congress. He campaigned hard but unlike earlier times, he was the face of the campaign – a strategy he adopted again during the Lok Sabha elections. Shri Narendra Modi covered the entire state and spread the message of hope.
The result was a spectacular win for the BJP, which won 127 seats and a vote share of 49.85%. The Congress won only 51 seats.
From 2002-2007, Shri Narendra Modi ensured a clean and development oriented Government for Gujarat with the state developing in leaps and bounds. But as more development took place in Gujarat, more the frustration grew in the opposition. In 2007, as the Assembly Elections approached, Shri Narendra Modi again became the target of personal slander. The Congress President described him as a “Merchant of Death” in a campaign full of bitterness. Yet, Shri Narendra Modi stayed away from hate-driven politics and focused on his strengths and the agenda of development. Finally, the BJP won 117 seats and retained a voteshare of 49.12%. The Congress remained under 60 seats winning 59.
Shri Narendra Modi’s most recent electoral victory in Gujarat came in December 2012, when the Party emerged victorious with 115 seats. The people of Gujarat gave him a thumping victory.
During the entire period from 2001 till date, while Shri Narendra Modi has been the Chief Minister, the BJP has won in every round of the Panchayat and Corporation elections.
From 1990 till 2012 a lot changed, but what remained constant was the hardwork, determination and dedication of Shri Narendra Modi, who invigorated each campaign through innovation and ensured the mandate was in favour of the BJP.
Lok Sabha Elections: Maximum Lotuses to Delhi from Gujarat
Narendra Modi’s ability as an organiser also helped the Party send the maximum BJP MPs to Delhi from Gujarat in successive Lok Sabha Elections. In 1984, the BJP won a lone Lok Sabha seat from Gujarat but 5 years later in the 1989 Lok Sabha Elections, the Party tally rose to 12 and in 1991 the tally shot up to 20!
In 1996, 1998 and 1999 the BJP’s tally remained above 20 from Gujarat. Even though he was not in Gujarat during this period, the foundation to this victory was laid by Shri Narendra Modi’s tireless efforts. While he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, the BJP won a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha Elections of 2004 and 2009, from the state.
The Yatras: Putting Nation before Self
As General Secretary in Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi became the force behind organising the ‘Nyay Yatra’ in 1987 and the Lok Shakti Yatra in 1989. Both these Yatras became a focal point in the quest for justice for the people of Gujarat, under a repressive and corrupt Congress regime.
Nationally, Shri Narendra Modi was a key figure in organising the ‘Somnath to Ayodhya Yatra’ led by Shri LK Advani and the ‘Ekta Yatra’ led by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi. The ‘Ekta Yatra’ was held in the backdrop of the volatile atmosphere in Kashmir created by terrorists, who were disallowing the hoisting of the Tricolour in Srinagar. Before the Yatra began, Shri Narendra Modi inspected all the locations himself.
LK Advaniji’s Somnath to Ayodhya Yatra
Organising Yatras is never an easy task. From finalizing the route to checking preparedness at every location to ensuring smooth movement, everything is a part of the duty of the organizer. And Shri Narendra Modi performed this role with perfection in those years. As Chief Minister too he undertook several Yatras, the most recent one being the ‘Vivekananda Yuva Vikas Yatra’, in 2012, where he travelled across Gujarat and spread Swami Vivekananda’s message among the people.
Beyond Gujarat: Success in North India
In 1995, Shri Narendra Modi was sent to Delhi as BJP National Secretary. He was given charge of the states in North India, namely Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. The BJP’s position in all these states was weak. Both Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab had witnessed a turbulent 15 years. If the elections in JK were fraught with discrepancies in 1987, the opposition had boycotted the Punjab elections in 1992. Haryana was in the Congress kitty and in Himachal Pradesh the BJP was routed in the 1993 Assembly elections.
This is again where Shri Narendra Modi’s keen organizational skills came in handy. In Haryana, where elections were held in mid-1996, the BJP stitched an alliance with Shri Bansi Lal’s Haryana Vikas Party and the alliance formed the Government with 44 seats. Shri Bansi Lal became the Chief Minister. The BJP won 11 out of the 25 seats it contested in. Compare this with 1991, when the party contested in 89 out of the 90 seats and won only 2. A decade ago, it was unimaginable for the BJP to enter into alliances with Shri Bansi Lal and Shri Devi Lal but with immense tact and without compromising the core ideology of the party, these alliances became a reality.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir was complex – the 1987 elections were held under rather controversial circumstances and Kashmir was under President’s Rule since 1990. When the state went to the people in 1996, the people gave their mandate to Shri Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference with 57 out of the 87 seats. The second highest number of seats went to the BJP. Though the number stood at 8, it was indeed a victory of sorts as the party polled more seats than other parties like the Congress or Janata Dal.
The other state under Shri Narendra Modi’s care, Himachal Pradesh had a different political landscape. While the BJP formed the Government in 1990 with 46 seats out of the total 68 seats, the Government was dismissed in the wake of the Babri Demolition in 1992. When the state voted again in 1993, the BJP was vanquished and won only 8 seats. In 1998, the BJP and the Congress both won 31 seats and the balance of power hung with former telecom Minister Sukhram’s Himachal Vikas Congress, which had 5 MLAs. Shri Narendra Modi played an influential role in winning over Shri Sukhram and forming the Government under a fresh face, Prem Kumar Dhumal. Shri Dhumal went on to become the Chief Minister again in 2007 for a full term albeit with a complete majority.
The success in Punjab was the grandest where the Akali-BJP combine literally swept into power with 93 of the 117 seats between the two parties in the 1997 Vidhan Sabha elections. The BJP contested 22 seats, won 18 and recorded a voteshare of 48.22% in the seats where it contested. A year before, in 1996, Modi spearheaded the BJP’s campaign in the Chandigarh civic polls and delivered a three fourth majority for the BJP. The victory is noteworthy because in the Chandigarh Corporation, there is a proportion of members are nominated by the LG, who was appointed by a non-BJP Government. It was Narendra Modi’s eye for detail that the party picked Shri Satyapal Jain to contest the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat in 1998 when he defeated Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal.
Shri Narendra Modi’s performance as an organiser in parliamentary elections is also noteworthy with him having to face three Lok Sabha elections in the six years that he was out of Gujarat. In his first election as the in-charge on these states, the BJP won one seat in JK, four seats in Haryana and was blanked out in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. However, in 1999, JK sent 2 MPs, Himachal Pradesh 3, Punjab 1 and Haryana 5.
Swearing-in ceremony of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998
Shri Narendra Modi was made the National General Secretary (Organisation) in 1998. The post of General Secretary (Organisation) is a very important position in the organizational structure of the party, which entails coordinating the matters across the entire nation. Previous occupants of this post include Shri Kushabhau Thakre and Shri Sundar Singh Bhandari. He was the General Secretary Organisation in 1999, when the BJP won its highest ever tally of 182 Lok Sabha seats.
In June 2013, for 2014 Lok Sabha Elections and on 13th September 2013, he was named the NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate.
From cleaning office premises to being a part of election campaigns for the Panchayat to the Parliament, Shri Modi has seen every facet of what it takes to work for a Party Organisation. And, everything he touched attained success! No wonder he is the BJP’s Midas Man.
How is that Shri Narendra Modi never gets tired? What is the source of his energy that he can keep up with such a demanding schedule, weeks after weeks and yet deliver with machine like consistency the same quality of work every time? This is a question that has often been asked by both supporters of the Prime Minister and indeed those who critically analyze him.
This question was posed directly to him in the first ever Townhall and in a recent television by a New Delhi based media house. The answer that Shri Narendra Modi gave made practical sense from his personal point of view but has deep philosophical connotations as well – tiredness is never because of working hard to achieve a mission but more a mental state about work left unfinished or pending. To quote from Modi’s own words in the interview to Rahul Joshi, “Actually we get tired by not working and work gives you satisfaction. That satisfaction gives you energy. I have felt this and always tell this to my young friends. Tiredness is more psychological. Everyone has the same capacity needed for the volume of the work. You keep accepting new challenges and your inner self will always back you. This is in-built.”
His mantra is simple yet profound – If you are enjoying your work you would never feel tired because you are doing what you are enjoying!
How the CM (common man) became the CM (Chief Minister)
Shri Narendra Modi was at a funeral of a senior cameraman Shri Gopal Bisht, who was among the journalists killed with late Madhavrao Scindia in that unfortunate plane crash when he received a phone call from none other than the then Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpaye. “Where are you” asked Atal ji.
Shri Modi replied, “I am in a funeral” to which Atal ji said, “Oh! Obviously I cant talk when you are at a funeral” but he called Shri Modi to his residence that evening.
When Shri Modi met Atal ji, the Prime Minister remarked, “Delhi has made you very fat! You must go back to Gujarat!”
The message was perfectly understood by Shri Modi, who was surprised by this decision. Having never served as an MLA, this was a very big responsibility the party was entrusting him with but when the Prime Minister of India is insisting, who can say no. In Shri Modi’s own words, he recalled, “I had not been to Gujarat for years. I called my party colleagues and told them- you are calling me but where will I go, I have no home there. I haven’t been to Gujarat in a while. They told me we will book a room in the circuit house but I insisted that I am not an MLA so I will pay the complete amount!”
Thus began Shri Modi’s innings as Gujarat Chief Minister. He went on to become the state’s longest serving CM and took oath a record 4 times.