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Why is it that people can't stop talking about Narendra Modi?

CNN-IBN
Dec 21, 2012 at 11:23am IST

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi scored a hat-trick in the state as the Bharatiya Janata Party won the Assembly elections with 115 seats. But the question is as to what makes him the man he is and the mass appeal he enjoys.

Love him or hate him, you can't ignore Narendra Damodardas Modi, a man who has been called a 'Hindu Hriday Samrat', 'Maut Ka Saudagar', 'Great Dictator', 'Polarising Politician', even 'Chhappan Ki Chhaati'. For some he is the 'criminally culpable chief minister' who failed to prevent 2,000 deaths in the 2002 post Godhra riots. For others he is the hero of development, synonymous with Gujarat's economic miracle.

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The 2002 post Godhra riots are indelibly stamped on his persona, trapping him in a paradox of notoriety as well as a popularity. In the immediate aftermath he swept to victory winning 127 seats, a hate figure for Muslims, but a poster boy of Hindutva.

The famously workaholic chief minister is known for his rough and tough language. He's been making constant references to the Gujarati pride and his politically incorrect rhetoric remains.

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Yet he constantly sees himself as a victim, someone unfairly painted as communal by the media, misjudged by pundits, and persecuted by NGOs. The courts have sent his cabinet colleagues like Maya Kodnani and Amit Shah to prison, his senior police officers like DG Vanzara are also in jail for encounter killings, he himself faces allegations over the riots.

His answer to his image crisis has been well publicised development efforts and working to market his own image. He's been on the TIME magazine cover, the British envoy has come calling even though Britain has made it clear that it disapproves of his role in the riots. He still can't get a visa to the US.

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Yet in Gujarat his personality cult today is unrivalled. In a sangh parivar known for faceless collective leadership, the RSS pracharak who rose through the ranks to become the chief organiser of LK Advani's rath yatra in 1990, has always been touched with a burning ambition. After three election victories, Modi is the longest serving chief minister of Gujarat, someone who has created the ideology of Moditva, a mix of Gujarati pride, development and Hindutva, an ideology and a persona far bigger brand than the BJP.

On Thursday, after his third successive victory in Gujarat, one of the first things Narendra Modi did was to visit his mother. But as he pitches for the ultimate prize of the throne of Delhi, the ambitious young boy from a humble family in Wadnagar in North Gujarat, has certainly come a long way.

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