Several prominent world leaders wished Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his 70th birthday on September 17, 2020. Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin were among them.
Angela Merkel, in her letter to Modi, said that she had “fond memories” with Modi, citing her meeting last November at the Indo-German intergovernmental consultations. Putin congratulated him on his birthday and said that Modi “values friendly relations.”
Modi had a humble beginning. As he turns 70, here is a glimpse into a few key moments in his journey.
Key moments in Modi’s life
Modi’s father sold tea at a tea stall near Vadnagar Railway Station. Modi also lent his hand and helped his father at the stall.
Reaching teens, he left home and went to Himalayas in search of spiritual truth for two years. “The strength that I gained when I was in Himalayas is still within me. I met people who believed in minimalistic living and leaving no carbon footprints behind,” Modi once reportedly said. Modi mentioned about his adventure in Himalayas recently, when he spent time in jungle with British adventurer Bear Grylls for the Discovery Channel show, “Man Vs. Wild.”
By then, he had been married to Jashodaben for three years. The marriage took place due to an arrangement made by his parents with his wife’s parents. Critics criticize him for not acknowledging his wife for almost 50 years as a lack of respect toward women.
Modi’s rise to prominence
Narendra Modi became an RSS worker in 1971. During emergency in 1975 imposed by Indira Gandhi, he was forced to go underground. He grew steadily as a leader in the organization.
He joined BJP in 1987, at the age of 37. He worked as the general secretary of the party in Gujarat. He became the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001 and continued till 2014.
In 2002, Modi won the by-election for the first time and secured a seat in the Gujarat State Assembly from Rajkot.
Communal riots took place in 2002, when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state. He is criticized for poor response and not doing enough to slow down or stop the riots against the Muslim population across the state. There were also allegations that his actions aroused and influenced Hindu activists.
The Supreme Court appointed Special Investigating Task (SIT) gave a clean chit to Narendra Modi in 2013 in the riots, as it did not find any solid evidence against him. Nanavati Commission, constituted in 2002, also gave a clean chit in its report to the then chief minister of Gujarat.
Modi as a strong leader
As Putin, Narendra Modi also projects himself as a strong leader. The self-image helped him win his 2014 elections against the then incumbent Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who was seen as weak and vacillating in his second term.
Soon after coming to power, Prime Minister Modi introduced the rule that leaders above 75 years old should not hold any administrative position in the state and central governments. Into his second term and three more years left, Modi has seen both successes and failures. At present, he is faced with challenges in the form of pandemic, economic slowdown and unemployment.