Narendra Damodardas Modi ([nəreːnd̪rə d̪ɑːmoːd̪ərəd̪ɑːs moːd̪iː] ( listen), born 17 September 1950) is the 15th and current Prime Minister of India. Modi, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also served as Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001–14. He represents Varanasi as its Member of Parliament (MP). Modi was a key strategist for the BJP in the successful 1995 and 1998 Gujarat state election campaigns. He became Chief Minister of Gujarat in October 2001 and served longer by far in that position than anyone else to date. Modi was a major campaign figure in the 2009 general election, which the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance lost to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). He led the BJP in the 2014 general election, which resulted in an outright majority for the BJP in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian parliament), the first time that any party had done so since 1984. Modi is a Hindu Nationalist and a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He is a controversial figure both within India as well as internationally as his administration has been criticised for the incidents surrounding the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Modi has been praised for his economic policies, which are credited with creating an environment for a high rate of economic growth in Gujarat. However, his administration has also been criticised for failing to make a significant positive impact upon the human development of the state. Modi was born on 17 September 1950 to a family of grocers belonging to the backward Ghanchi-Teli (oil-presser) community, in Vadnagar in Mehsana district of erstwhile Bombay State (present-day Gujarat), India. He was the third of four children born to Damodardas Mulchand Modi and his wife, Heeraben. He helped his father sell tea at Vadnagar railway station. As a child and as a teenager, he ran a tea stall with his brother near a bus terminus. In 1967, he completed his schooling in Vadnagar, where a teacher described him as being an average student, but a keen debater who had an interest in theatre.
That interest has influenced how he now projects himself in politics. At the age of eight, Modi came in contact with RSS and he began attending its local shakhas where he came in contact with Lakshmanrao Inamdar, popularly known as Vakil Saheb, who is known as his political guru and mentor. Inamdar inducted Modi as a balswayamsevak, a junior cadet in RSS. During his morning exercise session at the keri pitha shakha of RSS, he also came in contact with Vasant Gajendragadkar and Nathalal Jaghda, leaders of the Jan Sangh who later founded the BJP’s Gujarat state unit in 1980. Modi’s parents arranged his marriage as a child, in keeping with the traditions of the Ghanchi caste. He was engaged at the age of 13 to Jashodaben Chimanlal and the couple were married by the time he was 18. They spent very little time together and were soon estranged because Modi decided to pursue an itinerant life.
However as per Modi’s biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, the marriage was never consummated. Having remained silent on his marital status, during declarations related to candidature during four state elections since 2002 and having claimed that his status as a single person meant that he had no reason to be corrupt, Modi acknowledged Jashodaben as his legal spouse when filling in his nomination form for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. As per Modi in Kishore Makwana’s Common Man Narendra Modi, published in 2014, after leaving home at 17, he went to Ramakrishna Mission ashram in Rajkot and then to the Belur Math near Kolkata. Then he went to Guwahati and later joined another ashram set up by Swami Vivekananda in Almora, in the Himalayan foothills.
Two years after, he returned to Vadnagar and after a brief halt at his house, Modi left again for Ahmedabad, where he lived and worked in a tea stall run by his uncle where he again came in contact with Lakshmanrao Inamdar who was then based at Hedgewar Bhavan, the RSS headquarters in the city. He then worked in the staff canteen of Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation until he became a full–time pracharak (propagandist) of the RSS in 1970. In 1978, Modi graduated with an extramural degree through Distance Education in political science from Delhi University. In 1983, while remaining as a pracharak in the RSS, completed his Master’s degree in political science from Gujarat University. He still continues to visit Belur Math occasionally and talks about his reverence for the Ramakrishna Mission.