India’s Modi: Hindu nationalist tipped to be PM

India's Modi: abrasive Hindu nationalist tipped to be PM

The rise of one of India’s most polarising figures even split his own party, where worries about his controversial past and abrasive personality meant he had to overcome heavy internal dissent.

The 63-year-old son of low-caste parents from western Gujarat state is seen as a hardliner within the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu nationalist opposition last in power 1999-2004.

The yoga-lover and strict vegetarian described as a “monk with a mission” in a recent biography is steeped in the ideology of Hindu nationalism having joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a boy.

Committed to defending a puritanical form of Hindu culture, the RSS has been banned twice by the government and its cadres often harbour antagonistic views towards India’s 140 million Muslims, the country’s largest religious minority.

– Business-friendly –

Jaitley said he believed Indians had moved on from the issue and were now focusing on Modi’s record as a business-friendly administrator during his 13 years running Gujarat as chief minister.

He has many fans in corporate India, notably the country’s richest family, the Ambanis, and foreign behemoths such as Ford have praised his government as efficient and clean.

Between 2005 and 2012, Gujarat recorded average annual growth rates of 10.13 percent, the second-highest pace among large or medium-sized states, official data shows.

“We can meet principal secretaries and ministers easily to discuss issues related to industry,” Gujarati pharmaceuticals businesswoman Bhagyesh Soneji told AFP on a recent visit to the state.

But critics note a lack of progress on human development indicators during Modi’s rule, say his cosy relationship with industrialists amounts to crony capitalism, and also scoff at his governance record.

The state failed to appoint an anti-corruption ombudsman for nearly a decade until 2013 and one of his closest aides, Amit Shah, faces murder and extortion charges dating to his time as home minister.

His “strong” leadership is simply a result of his ruthless centralisation of power which tips into authoritarianism whenever he is challenged, they say.

– Guarded personal life –

On the campaign trial, in speeches often laden with sarcasm and barbs for the ruling Gandhi political dynasty, Modi has promised to clean up the corruption-wracked federal government.

A talented orator and master of communication — he once appeared as a hologram at simultaneous political rallies — he speaks in often coarse Hindi, shunning the English language of the Delhi elite.

Parts of his past and much of his present personal life remain a mystery.

He walked away from a child marriage arranged by his parents and he lives alone at his residence in Gujarat, taking great pride in a large collection of birds which he feeds every day.

As a young adult, he is believed to have wandered in the Himalayas in a sort of personal journey of discovery, returning to plunge into the RSS and politics in which he earned an early reputation as a formidable organiser.

Source: MSN News