Indian politics has always been loaded in favour of the dynasty or those with money and muscle power. On top of that the RSS was an outright pariah a long time after Independence and till 1977, no party other than the Congress ruled at the Centre.
It is in this backdrop that a humble chaiwallah called Narendra Modi initially got associated with the RSS and became a pracharak there in 1971, the year Prime Minister Indira Gandhi won the Bangladesh war and seemed invincible.
When Indira declared Emergency in 1975 many expected it would last indefinitely. Modi was one of the humble foot soldiers that fought against it. The 1977 elections were a surprise as were the results where RSS stalwarts AB Vajpayee and LK Advani became part of the first non-Congress government at the Centre.
From there on both the party and Modi grew. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh became the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980. In 1989 the BJP supported the government at the Centre. In 1996 Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the first time. He subsequently ruled from 1998-2004.
Modi formally joined the BJP in 1985 and helped Advani with his Rath Yatra in 1990. He helped the party win the 1995 Gujarat Assembly elections. He helped with other States and was made General Secretary in 1998.
Then against all odds, out of the blue, he was made Gujarat Chief Minister in 2001. While it was a tough road to reach that post, the going would get even tougher. Modi critics say that Gujarat was already a prosperous State when he took over and he did nothing special.
That is not the case. The 1990s Gujarat politics witnessed great instability and from 1990-98, we had the following Chief Ministers: Chimanbhai Patel (twice), Chhabildas Mehta, Keshubhai Patel (twice), Suresh Mehta, Shankersinh Vaghela and Dilip Parikh. That was like a Chief Minister a year and governance crashed.
The 1998 Gujarat cyclone saw thousands of deaths and the 2001 Republic Day earthquake killed thousands and destroyed lakhs of homes. People were fed up with the Congress, the Janata Dal was finished and the people were disillusioned with the BJP.
The truth is that when Modi took over Gujarat, morale was at an all-time low and many didn’t have much hope for the future. To make matters worse, the Godhra riots broke out soon after he took over.
Back in history, in the 1928 Godhra riots, Deputy Collector Morarji Desai was reprimanded. He was again in a conspiracy theory at the centre of the 1969 Gujarat riots which happened to be the biggest since 1947.
Morarji became Prime Minister in 1977 and Gujarat riots continued well into the 1980s and the situation stayed communal in the 1990s. Even the Godhra 2002 riots were started by enemies of Modi and there’s no way he could have masterminded it.
While most leaders fiddled when riots took place (1969 Gujarat, 1980 Moradabad, 1983 Nellie, 1984 anti-Sikh, 1989 Bhagalpur, 1991-92 Mumbai), Modi called in the Army and asked for police assistance from adjoining States (all Congress, all refused point blank).
Thousands were arrested and thousands were taken into preventive custody. More Hindus died in police firing than people of any other community. However the intellectuals and India’s ruling Left elite had declared Modi guilty and already hanged him in their media trial.
What followed next was the most intensive witchhunt and slander campaign against any citizen in Independent India’s history. He was called a Fascist dictator and Hitler. He was attacked at every forum.
All his development claims were rubbished. He was treated like a pariah and at every election a sustained effort was done to demonize him. It is amazing how Modi went through all of that without losing his balance.
He won three consecutive State elections, brought amazing road and power reforms in Gujarat and ended up being the most successful chief minister of India.
One would have thought that such a person would be welcomed to the Prime Minister’s chair. However that was not to be. Modi never had it easy and it would be no different this time. Modi fought the media, #AdarshLiberals, the RSS leadership and the BJP leadership and people in his own party to emerge as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate.
The battle continued to be uphill as he fought his way to success through social media, speeches and rallies. He fought with aggressive strategies and triumphed in the end.
He got the first clear mandate in 30 years. He took the BJP’s highest tally upward by 100 seats to 282. Yet he was dismissed as a 31 per cent Prime Minister (BJP’s vote share) even though the NDA had got 38.5 per cent (high in a multi-party democracy).
His international diplomacy and power reforms were met with fake stories about Louis Vuitton shawls. His building of lakhs of toilets and other infrastructure reforms were buried by the media. Fake stories like the Rs 20 lakh suit (downgraded to Rs 10 lakh with zero proof) dominated headlines.
But Modi marched on.
Then came 2015, which could be called his Annus Horribilis.
Church attacks in Trinamool’s Mamata Banerjee land were attributed to him.
The Dadri attack in SP’s Akhilesh Yadav land was foisted on him.
The #AwardWapsiGang attacked him virulently and got great coverage in both India and abroad.
#LalitGate was a storm in a teacup but a storm all the same.
From 2012-14, Modi won the general elections in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir.
In 2015 he lost both New Delhi and Bihar and he is being rubbished despite having the highest success rate in Indian politics today. Even a convict like Lalu Prasad Yadav is being celebrated at having achieved something momentous.
Right now all the odds seem to be stacked against Modi and he seems to be under siege from all sides. All the knives are out in an attempt to derail his Prime Ministerial term. But hasn’t that been the story of Modi’s life? What’s new, one may ask?
All said and done, it is not easy to dismiss or underrate Modi, a really uncanny politician. If anyone can get out of this situation and turn the tables on all his enemies, it has to be him.Modi’s march has seen a minor blip and not a total breakdown. He is still on course to turn India around by 2019 no matter what may have happened in Bihar.
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist. He has previously worked for organizations like the Hindustan Times, CyberMedia, the Centre for Science & Environment and IT market research firm IDC India.