NEW DELHI, India — An enthralling orator, strict nationalist and majorly popular politician, India’s Narendra Modi stands poised to win India’s 2014 general elections, placing him as Prime Minister.
Time and again, his popularity with the voting population has been proven, as he is continually placed above opponent Rahul Gandhi in electoral surveys. Modi is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate for the upcoming elections after finishing his fourth consecutive term as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi’s home state.
As of 2007, Modi became the longest serving Chief Minister in Gujarat’s history and continued in his position until his bid for Prime Minister of India. He has received a great deal of acclaim as well as criticism for his term as Chief Minister.
Over Modi’s tenure, Gujarat’s economy tripled, power supplies to the region were dramatically improved, and exports increased, further supporting the area’s economy. This combined with major projects that Modi pushed through during his term and his insistence on the reconstruction of the center of Gujarat’s largest city, Ahmehabad, has given him a strong background in economic improvement.
Unsurprisingly, Gujarat’s economic success in governing Gujarat has made him a favorite with corporations and citizens working in financial areas. One media tycoon praised Modi calling him, “the only man who can get us out of the hole we are now in.”
Referring to himself proudly as a “Hindu Nationalist,” Modi is apparently in favor of radical economic reform to improve India as a whole. He leads a highly personalized campaign, focusing on himself and what he plans to do for India rather than the BJP’s ideals. Modi has mobilized a great deal of support through everyday citizens who are looking for an improved economy and societal structure and uses the nationalistic slogan “Vote for India” throughout his campaign and highly popular speeches.
However, while Modi has garnered support based on his personality and economic successes as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he is still a heavily controversial candidate.
In 2002, uncontrolled riots broke out in Gujarat after a train of Hindu’s on a religious pilgrimage were attacked and killed by Muslim extremists. Over the course of the riots, over a thousand people were killed with thousands more forced out of their homes — the vast majority of those affected were Muslims.
While Modi was cleared of any official wrongdoing in the wake of the riots, it has been widely speculated that he believed them to be justified, and so, refrained from protecting the minority Muslim population under his jurisdiction.
In addition to this controversy, many are afraid of placing Modi as India’s Prime Minister due to his authoritarian way of governing and perceived ties to India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS,) a national volunteer organization in which Modi was involved as a youth, marking his entrance into the political sphere.
While Modi has broken ties from the RSS to become a member of the BJP, this connection to the “highly disciplined rightwing organisation dedicated to realising a nationalist, traditionalist and religious vision of India’s future” has furthered the controversy surrounding him.
Modi is a figure both loved and feared by Indian citizens. Many are completely convinced that he will save the country, improving the economy as he did in Gujarat and furthering the spread of reliable electricity and resources throughout the country. But, others fear an authoritarian rule from a leader who relies on intimidation tactics for success.
Although he certainly has had his fair share of successes in governing Gujarat, it is debatable as to whether or not Modi will be able to bring similar success to the infinitely larger Indian country as a whole.
Further, his previous policies and tactics of government could negatively impact India, cowing citizens under an unstoppable force rather than raising them up out of poverty and instability. Should Modi win in India’s elections this upcoming April and May, he may prove himself a savior for India or a majorly problematic leader.
– Cameron Barney