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30 things you should know about Narendra Modi

Last updated on: September 14, 2013 00:36 IST

30 things you should know about Narendra Modi

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

So Narendra Modi has finally gate-crashed New Delhi. The state-level political leader from a medium-sized Indian state has arrived in Delhi seeking the prime minister’s chair, no less.

While the country will take its time to make up its mind, Modi has shown that he is a man in a hurry and will not leave any stone unturned to achieve his dream.

So who really is Narendra Modi? Do we really know him? What are his personal habits, for one?

Sheela Bhatt compiles a list of things, both unknown and known, about the latest challenger to the New Delhi throne. These highlights from Modi's life should be read along with our two-part series:

How Modi poses a threat as well as opportunity for Cong

Polarisation or development? Narendra Modi's big dilemma

1. Vadnagar, an ancient town that’s almost 2,500 years old, is Narendra Damordas 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 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 Hsüan-tsang visited it during his 17-year journey through India in the seventh 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. The most striking personal habit of Modi 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 lota 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 favourite darzi in a posh shop on Ahmedabad’s CG Road. Everyone knows that he is crazy about wrist watches and sandals.

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Image: Narendra Modi seeks his mother's blessings


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4. Modi is a cleanliness maniac. 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 humour -- though it can sometimes be hurtful. 

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7. He is extremely prudent in money matters, and would like to pay the least and get the most while finalising 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. These days his weight veers around 84 kg. He gets 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. Has spent enough time in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh so his language, nuances of behaviour and expressions can never be Westernised. 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 masters in political science but as an RSS pracharak he learnt all about India, Hinduism and family life when he was staying with RSS followers’ families.

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Image: BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani and Gujarat's Chief Minister pose with their party candidates during an election campaign in Ahmedabad. At the back is a statue of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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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, “is on till September 2014”.

Ahmedabad’s best astrologer claims, “Modi’s planetary strength lies in Tula, no mangal in chalit and Rahu in sixth house.” Those in the know say that Lokmanya Tilak and Otto von Bismark had similar kundlis. According to current astrological transit, Saturn and Rahu in Tula and Jupiter’s position in his kundli are helping his rise.

One perforce thinks of destiny and X factor while talking about Modi because even as his government is facing serious allegations of fake encounters, his star is on the ascendant. The man's rise is impressive also 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 70 crore-plus Shaktipeeth parikrama on the Gabbar hillock, considered highly sacred by devotees. This will be inaugurated soon.

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. 

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Image: Narendra Modi busy at work


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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. Since long he has been trusting Anandiben Patel, a minister and among his likely successors if he shifts to Delhi. However, he guards his privacy zealously.   

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Image: Bhagavatacharya Narayanacharya High School, the co-ed Gujarati-medium school that Modi attended
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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16. Modi is 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 a 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 publicity office. A few years back he used to like dark colours but now he experiments. He keeps a comb handy in his pocket all the time. He keeps half a dozen colourful ‘khesangvastras ready in the back seat of 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. 

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19. He has written poems of low literary value.

20. His icon is Swami Vivekanand. 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 travelled and wandered around India. 

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22. His favourite food is bhakhri (crispy rotis) and khichdi made in Gujarati style. Modi knows to cook, too. 

23. He has met innumerable sadhus. 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. Unlike his image, Modi meets local Gujarati Muslims frequently. But the easy access given to them is among Gandhinagar’s well-kept secrets.

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Image: A Muslim leader greets Narendra Modi during his 72-hour 'Sadbhavana Mission' fast in Ahmedabad


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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 defence, 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 recognises time and its value. He strikes when it’s his time and bends otherwise.

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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister on the lawns of his palatial home in Gandhinagar


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Sheela Bhatt

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 24x7 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 crores 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. Those who are not his fans may hear him out in the coming days because he has provided power to all homes in Gujarat. 

29. Whatever critics may say, Modi has learnt his lesson after the 2002 riots. The secular activists, media and 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. Even though the prime minister’s chair is far, far away, in case Modi becomes PM he will not continue the “official minority policies” the way it’s now run from New Delhi. He will leave his imprint on the way the central government handles the nation’s minorities.

This fear will ensure that Muslim voters will go the whole hog to vote against Modi. The fear is understandable. L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj are also arguing on the same lines. It’s precisely for this reason that from now on, Modi will be heard attentively when he speaks on cultural, social, communal and constitutional issues.

Modi has an original way of political manoeuvring. Just wait and watch.


Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the concluding session of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors' Summit 2011 at Gandhinagar
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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