So who really is Narendra Modi? Do we really know him?
Sheela Bhatt/Rediff.com’s ready reckoner on the mystery man who is India’s next prime minister.
1. Vadnagar, an ancient town that is almost 2,500 years old, is Narendra Damodardas Mulchand Modi’s birthplace. Indians strongly identify themselves with their janambhoomi, and Modi is no different.
He likes the Hatkeswar Mahadeo temple, built in the 15th century, in his home town. His birthplace is unique in that it saw both Hinduism and Buddhism flourish. It is also a highly cultured town that is famous for the singer-duo Tana and Riri who stumped none other than the legendary Tansen in the Mughal king Akbar’s durbar.
Vadnagar was once the capital of Gujarat and has a proud place in history also because the Chinese scholar Huan Tsang visited it during his 17-year journey through India in the 7th century and has narrated Vadnagar in detail in his fascinating memoirs.
2. Modi was born on September 17, 1950. He makes it a point to take the blessings of his mother Heeraben on his birthday. He bonds reasonably well with his four brothers and sister, but doesn’t display it in public. His wife’s name is Jashoda, and the couple separated soon after marriage.
3. His most striking personal habit is to wear well-ironed and wrinkle-free clothes, a habit he retains from his teenage years when he would fill hot water in a brass lot a and iron his shirt using the vessel’s heated bottom.
He continues to lay stress on dressing well and, judging by his public appearances over the last couple of years he owns hundreds of kurtas, all of them tailored by his favorite darzi(Tailor) in a posh shop on Ahmedabad’s CG Road. Everyone knows that he is crazy about wrist watches and sandals.
4. Modi is fastidious about cleanliness. He keeps his desk, his home and general surroundings spic and span. There is no doubt that he is very comfort-oriented in the matter of designing his home and personal desk. He loves his chartered flights too — one of the privileges of being a chief minister.
5. He can be dubbed one of the best copywriters in contemporary India. No Indian advertising agency is likely to match his ability to paraphrase ideas, launch new brands, re-launch people and events, write-rewrite copies to sell ideas or products as he does.
6. In closed-door meetings he likes multi-media presentations. He has a flair for technology and has a child-like enthusiasm for it. In meetings he has displayed that he has a fine sense of humor — though it can sometimes be hurtful.
7. He is extremely prudent in money matters, and would like to pay the least and get the most while finalizing contracts of various ministries. He can be called economical, if not a miser. Yes, he is very economical with his own money as well.
8. He has back pain at times, with the upper part of the spinal region being the problem area. When he stands for a long time his feet get swollen. But, no, he doesn’t have any serious health problems.
9. He has spent enough time in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, so his language, nuances of behavior and expressions can never be Westernized. He definitely likes Western watches, accessories and homely comforts, but that’s all.
He is quite conservative, even old-fashioned, on issues relating to women and family, though he will never say so in public.
His knowledge of English is reasonably okay, but he is not comfortable speaking it. He has done his master’s in political science, but as an RSS pracharak he learnt all about India, Hinduism and family life when he was staying with RSS families.
10. Those who believe in astrology may like to know that Modi’s moon sign is Scorpio, and sun sign is Virgo. His star constellation is Anuradha. He was born at 11 am on September 17, 1950. An astrologer who saw his kundli says his rahu antardasha , considered good for those in politics, will be on till September 2014.
Ahmedabad’s best astrologer claims Modi’s planetary strength lies in Tula, no mangal in chalit and Rahu in the sixth house. Those in the know say that Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Otto von Bismark had similar kundlis. According to the current astrological transit, Saturn and Rahu in Tula and Jupiter’s position in his kundli are helping his rise.
The man’s rise is impressive when one considers that for almost three decades he lived with little money. When in his 20s, he arranged and acted in a play in Vadnagar to collect funds to build his school’s boundary wall. He has even served tea in his maternal uncle’s canteen at the bus stand in Ahmedabad while studying in college.
11. He fasts all nine days during Navratra every year — eating only one fruit a day during this time. He eschews the Navratra-special thali meal which is traditionally allowed once a day.
He fasts out of devotion for Goddess Ambaji, and has changed the landscape of her shrine on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border.
Out of reverence to Ma Amba he has built a Rs 700 million-plus Shaktipeeth parikrama on the Gabbar hillock, considered highly sacred by devotees.
12. He logs on to the Internet every morning without fail and checks all that is written about him. Even if he is travelling, he gets newspapers and cuttings of what his critics are saying about him.
13. He is the decision-maker. Period. He will not send any decision to a Group of Ministers.
14. Modi has no ‘best friend’. He is a loner.
15. Modi is married, but never lived with his wife. For long he has trusted Anandiben Patel, a minister and among his likely successors if he shifts to Delhi. He guards his privacy zealously.
16. Modi is a workaholic. After going online at 7 am or even earlier, he would call his party men from all over Gujarat; now, he calls people from all over India.
He attends office early in the morning, and works till 10 pm if need be. He is a leader who is not going to ease his grip on party politics even if he were to head a ministry or be ensconced in the PMO if the National Democratic Alliance government comes to power.
17. Oh yes, he is in love with the mirror. He poses like a model. He is very conscious of pictures that are sent out from his office.
A few years ago he used to like dark colors, but now he experiments. He keeps a comb handy in his pocket all the time. He keeps half a dozen colorful khes angvastras ready in his car, and chooses one according to the crowd he is addressing.
18. He sleeps for only five hours — sometimes even less. Whatever time he hits the bed, he gets up at 5 or 5.30 am.
19. He writes poems, though their literary value is debatable.
20. His icon is Swami Vivekananda. He admires Indira Gandhi.
21. Modi was incommunicado when he was 17 and 18. He left his family and went to Rajkot’s Ramakrishna mission and to the Belur Math in West Bengal and then to the Himalayas. He wanted to do something, but did not know what. So he traveled and wandered around India.
22. His favorite food is bhakhri (crispy rotis) and khichdi made in Gujarati style. Modi knows to cook.
23. He taught Gujarati to Sadhvi Ritambhara when he was a full-time worker in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The sadhvi’s guru Swami Parmanand was fond of Modi’s spiritual quest.
24. Modi meets local Gujarati Muslims frequently. But the easy access given to them is among Gandhinagar’s well-kept secrets.
25. He is a hard task-master and treats government officers as tools to achieve his political goals.
26. There is no doubt that he played communal politics in the last three Gujarat elections. But his close associates say, in a weak defense, that his negative side is not dominated by his penchant for identity politics.
He is like most national leaders — from Indira Gandhi to Nitish Kumar — opportunistic, which drives him to play identity politics for the sake of power.
27. He has won so far because he knows the usefulness and uselessness of everyone around him. Two, he recognizes time and its value. He strikes when it’s his time and bends otherwise.
28. No one should have any doubt that if at all he fulfills his dream of becoming prime minister he will turn New Delhi topsy-turvy. He will make bureaucrats work and will be a dictator who will ensure the implementation of his decisions.
His Jyotigram Yojna to provide power to all Gujarati households 24×7 was almost impossible to implement, with the toughest resistance coming from users of electricity.
But Modi put his foot down, plugged leakages, stopped theft, and forced farmers to pay pending bills running into billions of rupees. It was a very China-like implementation that he managed through Saurabh Patel, the state energy minister.
Modi’s entire image is built on and around this achievement after the 2002 riots.
29. Whatever critics may say, Modi has learnt his lesson after the 2002 riots. Secular activists, the media and the judiciary struggled to get Modi’s government to follow the rule of law. That has made a difference, and is a huge achievement for Teesta Setalvad and other activists.
The Modi camp says he is unlikely to repeat the mistakes of 2002. However, those who hate him will continue to hate him. Modi evokes extreme emotions in his fans, and more so in his opponents.
30. Modi will leave his imprint on the way the central government handles the nation’s minorities.
Modi has an original way of political maneuvering. Just wait and watch.