Why does PM Modi support RSS

Narendra Modi: Successful and controversial

February 27, 2002 in the West Indian state of Gujarat: On a train with Hindu pilgrims, a fire breaks out under circumstances that are still unexplained to this day. 58 pilgrims perish. This incident, together with reports that revolted Muslims had started the fire, sparked one of the deadliest orgies of violence in recent Indian history: According to official reports, 254 Hindus and 790 Muslims were killed and thousands were injured in the subsequent unrest. These anti-Muslim pogroms severely damaged the image of Narendra Modi, who had been Prime Minister in Gujarat since 2001. Since then, he has been repeatedly accused of failing to intervene to stop the violence.

"Hindu Nationalist"

Modi is accused of not intervening when violence escalated in Gujarat in 2002

Modi comes from a middle-class family and studied political science at the University of Gujarat. For many years he then propagated the "Hindutva" ideology of India's Hinduization for the radical Hindu nationalist grassroots organization RSS, before joining the right-wing conservative Hindu nationalist "Indian People's Party" (BJP) in the late 1980s. After his rise within the party, Modi was elected head of government in Gujarat in 2001 - just months before violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims.

Since then, human rights groups have accused his government of not only failing to protect the minorities, but also of encouraging the bloody rioting through its inaction. Political opponents and non-governmental organizations used these allegations to label Modi as an "anti-Muslim" or "Hindu nationalist" and made him one of the most controversial politicians in India. Modi himself always denied all accusations. His supporters claim he was treated unfairly and badly made.

An investigative committee of the Supreme Constitutional Court of India acquitted Modi of any wrongdoing, recalls Milan Vaishnav, South Asia expert at the American foundation "Carnegie Endowment for International Peace". "But the acquittal was not enough to silence his critics. They still blame him for the escalation of the religious unrest in 2002."

Economic success

Solar park in Gujarat: fast and unbureaucratic investment licenses

Modi's style of government is also controversial and has often generated strong reactions over the past decade. Opponents criticize him as "authoritarian". However, supporters consider him "decisive" and praise his economic successes.

In fact, the controversial "Chief Minister" made Gujarat one of the fastest growing states and at times brought it double-digit growth rates. "Modi has attracted many domestic and foreign investors to Gujarat," said Jagdish Baghwati, an economics professor at Columbia University in New York. "He offers them a corruption-free environment and is known for his quick decisions when it comes to investment and production licenses. In almost all other Indian states the situation is comparatively pathetic due to bureaucratic delays."

Gujarat recorded direct investments worth approximately $ 8.8 billion between 2000 and 2013. This corresponds to almost four percent of the total foreign investment in India during this period, according to the official figures.

Critics object, however, that this economic growth has not benefited Gujarat's social development. Modi concentrated exclusively on the expansion of the external infrastructure and ignored education or health. The economist Bhagwati takes a different view: "Modi has made a remarkable contribution when it comes to social indicators such as poverty reduction or literacy rates. He has also connected many villages to the electricity grid."

In the period from 2011 to 2012, Gujarat's gross domestic product grew by 8.5 percent, while India's economy as a whole only grew by five to six percent. The continued strong economic performance has helped improve the image of the BJP politician across the country.

Popular politician

Modi with supporters in the last Gujarat parliamentary election in 2012

General parliamentary elections are due to take place in India in April or May. Many observers expect the Hindu opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its top candidate Narendra Modi to win. They believe Modi could benefit from the repeated corruption scandals at the highest political levels, which have led to growing disillusionment among voters towards the ruling Congress party.

Modi is popular with India's middle class, business community, and college students. "Above all, industry representatives support his candidacy for the post of Indian prime minister," says S. Chandrasekharan, director of the Indian think tank "South Asia Analysis Group" (SAAG). "They hope that Modi, as head of government, would continue his growth and investment policies at the national level and fill the leadership vacuum that they saw paralyzed the country for years."

But despite his strong support in many parts of society, and although the media and polls already see him as the winner, it is not yet clear whether the BJP will win enough parliamentary seats in the election to form a government, says South Asia expert Milan Vaishnav . "Even if Modi is apparently way ahead as the favorite for the post of prime minister, that doesn't mean anything. Election results in India are often unpredictable: the BJP was wrongly predicted a victory in the last two parliamentary elections."

External relations

Refused entry: the US revoked Modi's visa in 2005

In the event of an election victory for the BJP or a coalition government led by it, the western states, above all the USA, would face a tricky situation. After the riots in 2002, many, including Germany, the UK and the US, cut ties with Modi and banned him from entering their countries. The US Congress even passed a resolution in 2005 condemning the Chief Minister for his role in the riots and accusing him of spreading "Nazi ideology" and "racial hatred".

In the past few years, various countries have given up boycotting the BJP leader. The United States, which revoked Modi's visa in 2005, has remained with its restrictions to this day. Even so, Washington would have no choice but to get involved with Modi if he were to become India's new head of government, says Milan Vaishnav. "The Obama administration would be pragmatic in this case - given the growing economic, diplomatic and security ties between India and the United States."