The India Chapter



The largest election in history is taking place right now.

The world’s largest democracy.

The world’s most populous nation.

The world’s largest electorate.

The world’s largest number of voters at 970 million.

One sixth of the world’s population as well as one fifth of the world’s working population will go to the polls.

With a choice of 2,600 political parties

Estimated to be the most expensive election ever, exceeding that of the 2020 US presidential vote.

The world’s largest electoral exercise in democracy is running for six weeks from 19 April 2024 to 4 June 2024.

In 2023, the BBC asked the Modi question.

In 2024, ROCK&ART will provide the Modi answer.

Table of Contents

  • Proud to be Indian

India’s 18th general election stands as a monumental milestone in the history of democracy. India’s geopolitical ripples are now tidal waves that splash far beyond India’s borders. The world is enthusiastically observing the implications for regional and global stability. India’s role as the second major power in South Asia and its increasing influence on the international stage amplifies the significance of the result of this election.

At the centre is the world’s most popular and controversial figure right now, the only politician to have an approval rating of above 70%, regularly on the list of the world’s most powerful and influential people, including being ranked #9 on Forbes’ last list, and one of only four politicians on the list.


He is the world’s most-followed politician on Instagram and has 97.5 million followers on X (formerly Twitter).

Temples and statues have been built to worship him like a god.

The BBC states he is  “The most powerful politician of his generation.”

Sky news describes him as “A history-making leader with god-like status.”

But some, including the BBC as well as members of the largest minority in India, consider him a mass murderer. If he does actually get the 400 parliamentary seats that he’s projected to, Modi would have absolute power in the world’s largest democracy, which could make him the second most powerful person in the world after the man who is in charge of the world’s largest army. If not in military power, at least in people power, he would be number one.

With the potential to become the most powerful person globally, Modi’s influence extends far beyond India’s borders, shaping regional and global stability.

A statue of Modi, at a temple built in his honour. (The Guardian. Photograph: AFP/Getty)

The 2024 General Election

As the world watches the 2024 Indian general election, the outcome holds immense significance for India’s future and its role on the global stage. Modi’s continued leadership could further solidify India’s position as a major power, while the opposition’s strategies and alliances will be crucial in challenging the BJP’s dominance.

Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister has been marked by accomplishments and controversies. His strong leadership style has garnered widespread support, particularly among the Hindu majority, while facing criticism and allegations from various quarters.

The 2024 election is a pivotal moment for India, shaping its political landscape and its influence in the world. Modi‘s journey from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of power is a testament to his resilience and strategic acumen. The world awaits the verdict of the Indian electorate in this historic election, as the future of the world’s largest democracy hangs in the balance.

Narendra Modi is a polarising figure in Indian politics, revered by some as a strong leader who has brought about significant economic reforms and social welfare initiatives, while others view him as a controversial figure with allegations of human rights abuses and authoritarian tendencies. His journey from a tea seller to the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy is a testament to his political acumen and resilience.

As the 2024 Indian general election unfolds, the world will closely watch the outcome, which will have far-reaching implications for India’s future and its role on the global stage. The definitive answer to the “Modi question” will ultimately lie in the hands of the Indian electorate.

The majority of articles on Modi are quite repetitive in that they focus on anti-Muslim rhetoric, which is understandable as that obtains more clicks and views.

This article, however, the fourth in a series of articles entitled “An Unconventional Perspective,” following on from the first three articles published on 10 April, 1 May, and 2 May, will view from different angles an incredibly topical, explosive, and trending subject and will be the definitive, unbiased, and impartial article on Narendra Modi and includes a response to the BBC documentary.

Over twenty people were interviewed from vastly diverse backgrounds across the political spectrum from left to right: Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs living in and outside India, to members of the BJP and spokespeople and politicians from the two main political alliances, BJP and I.N.D.I.A to get an inclusive range of views.

A wealth of differing opinions, the only thing every single person agreed on, is that regardless of his success or failure, violence or threats of violence against Muslims are intolerable and absolutely unacceptable.

Although ready at the start of the election, the publication date was delayed so as not to be perceived as propaganda or bias. India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are looking for over 400 seats, which will give them power to change the constitution and potentially change India from secular to the world’s first Hindu nation and approach dictatorship status. They could then extend election cycles to more than every five years, or, like the Chinese government, not hold elections at all.

The BJP is expected to win easily and build on its majority. Having won two landslide elections, many see him as having a touch of the divine, whilst others consider him Islamophobic. Fifteen years ago, he wasn’t allowed entry to Britain or America, but he is now being courted by both countries, including the last four American presidents and every G20 democracy, as a counterpoint to China.

But can the 300 million Indians who voted for him in 2019, which to put into context is comparable to every-single person in the USA voting, be wrong?

If he wins, he will match India´s first Prime Minister, Nehru, as the only prime minister to have won three elections. He is also helped by the fact that the opposition political party, at the time of writing, is the only modern political party to campaign during an election, without having chosen their leader for the party or their candidate for PM if they win.

“Proud of being Indian.”

Many articles regarding Modi contain much bias, pro and anti-Modi in Indian media outlets and anti-Modi in the majority of Western media, such as the Guardian and Al Jazeera. Predictable in Al Jazeera’s case as it’s partially funded by Qatar, an Islamic state that funds Iran and HAMAS.

This article will look at accusations made against him, such as the massacre in Gujarat where over 1,000 people, mainly Muslims died, (including an interview with a person who lived there at the time of the riots), to the destruction of a 200-year-old mosque and the allegations of ignoring hate crimes against Muslims and Christians, censorship of press and social media, and jailing political opponents.

It will look at his achievements; successes AND failures, such as the highly controversial citizenship act, which is accused of preventing Muslims from entering India, demonetisation which wiped out 86% of India’s cash, with four hours’ notice which caused chaos and deaths around India, as well as India’s first landing of the moon’s south side.

Supporters claim he is a strong, efficient leader who has delivered on promises. Critics allege his government has weakened federal institutions, cracked down on dissent, and that India’s Muslim minority feels threatened under his rule.

“Mr Modi has very staunch admirers and very strong critics. Either you like him or you dislike him,” says political analyst Ravindra Reshme.

About eight in 10 Indian adults have a favourable view of Modi, including 55% who have a very favourable view. Such levels of popularity for a two-term incumbent prime minister defy all modern conventions, both in India and throughout much of the democratic world.

Analysts say Modi is enduringly popular, appealing to both the poor and the affluent, especially among much of the 80% of India’s population who are Hindu.

During his ten years in power, he has launched a raft of welfare policies including free food handouts, housing, cheap gas cylinders for women, and infrastructure projects.

Author Christophe Jaffrelot told CNN; Modi makes people feel “proud again of being Indian.” “There is a sense in India, a constant sense, of vulnerability, a lack of self-esteem. So, to be recognised as a great power in spite of everything, (that) is attributed to him,” he said.

This 10 part definitive series of articles on Modi will be an in-depth profile, from his slumdog millionaire-esque rags to riches story, growing up as a tea seller in abject poverty, to becoming one of the world’s most powerful men.

Part 1, today’s piece will provide an informational foundation on Modi, bread and butter to seasoned Modi addicts and die hards, but caviar, truffles and saffron to beginners of Indian politics.

Hindu nationalist or Islamophobe, messiah or dictator, saviour or mass murderer, Bollywood hero or villain… or both?

The BBC asked the Modi Question.

This 10-part series of articles will provide the Modi answer.

The Modi Biography – Slumdog Millionaire

The $700 million grossing film “Slumdog Millionaire” is ranked in the all-time top ten of Oscar-winning films, equalling “Gandhi”. Both book and film were fictional. But they could have been based on Narendra Modi’s life.


Life Imitates Art. Scene from Slumdog Millionaire depicting the god, Lord Rama. Modi inaugurated the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, built on top of an illegally destroyed Mosque. fulfilling a 30 year promise to BJP supporters after it was destroyed 100’s of years ago by Muslim colonialists.

The story starts at independence in 1947. India was split in two. Pakistan was founded as a homeland for Indian Muslims. But India, under the leadership of its Cambridge-educated Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, chose not to be equally Hindu. The country had a substantial Muslim population (then around 35 million, now more than 172 million), and the ideology Nehru bequeathed to the new independent nation was secularism.

According to TIME, “This secularism was more than merely a separation between religion and state; in India, it meant the equal treatment of all religions by the state, although to many of its critics, it translated into Orwell’s proverb of some ‘being more equal than others.’

Indian Muslims were allowed to keep Shari’a-based law, while Hindus and all other religions were subject to the law of the land. Arcane practices, such as the man’s right to divorce a woman by rejecting her three times were allowed for Indian Muslims, while Hindus were bound by reformed family law and often found their places of worship taken over by the Indian state.” (Modi made the Triple Talaq instant divorce a punishable offence in 2018.)

Modi was born in poverty into a low-class Hindu Gujarati family in a village in the north-western Indian state of Gujarat. (Between Mumbai and Delhi). The birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi.

At age 18, he had an arranged marriage to Jashodaben Modi. Soon afterwards he left home and the marriage was never consummated. They are now estranged and Modi doesn’t have any children.


Modi shares the same birthplace as Gandhi. “The Serenity of Soul.” Tony Illustrations.

As the son of a tea seller, who himself sold tea in train stations, he breaks the template of privately educated, metropolitan, Cambridge or Oxford educated, English-speakers set by many previous Indian leaders.

He completed an M.A. degree in political science from Gujarat University in Ahmedabad and then started from the bottom in his political journey.

In 2001, he replaced the Gujarat chief minister (CM) after he was held responsible for the state government’s poor response in the aftermath of the colossal Bhuj earthquake in Gujarat that year, that killed more than 20,000.

Road to the Top


One of India’s worst religious riots occurred just months after Modi became CM. Modi took the brunt of the blame, certain western countries like the USA and UK wouldn’t grant him a visa. There were many clouds of uncertainty swirling around the riots and how 59 devotees on a pilgrimage to the site of the Ram temple in Ayodhya were killed. Generally, the Gujarati Hindu community claimed that the cause was a terrorist attack, the Gujarati Muslim community claimed it was a train station fire. The BBC, in their 2023 documentary “The Modi Question”, even accused Modi of not getting the police to act, delaying the call to help victims being attacked and telling them to stand aside as Muslims were killed.

In Part 3, A UK national who was born and bred in Gujarart and was studying in university, talks about his experience of the Gujarat riots.

After the riots, Gujarat had a reputation as a place that was a hotbed for violence, which scared away investors.

Modi cut red tape and bureaucracy in a bid to attract investment and started an annual business summit attended by India’s business elite. This included Ratan Tata, owner of 150 year old Indian conglomerate TATA, who owns amongst others in his vast business empire, Range Rover, Jaguar and Britain’s largest steel manufacturer, Corus. Other gilded attendees included Mukesh Ambani, who inherited India’s largest private company from his father, the world’s richest man just before he died. Most well-known globally for being Asia’s richest as well as the world’s eighth richest man who built his own skyscraper to live in, the world’s most expensive property after Buckingham palace. And Gautham Adani, whose wealth skyrocketed past Jeff Bezos to become at one point, the world’s second richest man.


Antilia in Mumbai. Home of Asia’s richest man. Ashwin Nagpal

In rural areas, he separated the power consumption between domestic residences and agriculture, which stopped power cuts.

According to the revealing Bloomberg video, “The Rise of India’s Narendra Modi,” “In the 12 years Modi was chief minister (CM), the state economy increased 10% per year, which was higher per year than the nation average. His economic model became known as the “Gujarat model.” Gujarat became the third richest state in India,” after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Modi, at least in India, was able to shake off the stigma of the riots and emerge like a phoenix from the flames from the ashes of the Gujarat train station fire. He won two landslide elections as CM of Gujarat, with two of the biggest majorities ever for Indian chief ministerial elections.

The success of Gujarat, especially after the turmoil of the riots and the fact that Modi was able to overturn this seemingly unassailable obstacle at the beginning of his term, put Modi forward as the BJP’s candidate for prime minister in the 2014 election.

Modi’s repeated political successes in Gujarat made him an indispensable component within the BJP hierarchy and led to his integration into the political mainstream. Both times Modi won his contests and returned as chief minister.

The Saviour

During his time as head of the Gujarat government, Modi established a formidable reputation as an able administrator and was given credit for the rapid growth of the state’s economy. His electoral performances helped advance Modi’s position as not only the most-influential leader within the party but also a potential candidate for prime minister of India and was chosen as the BJP candidate in 2013 for the 2014 elections.

Narendra Modi was elected as the 14th Prime Minister of India in 2014. He became the first Prime Minister born after India’s independence from the British Empire.

Trump, Meloni and Milei…Erdogan, Bolsonaro, Khan

In many ways Modi is part of the wider global wave of populist leaders with an authoritarian streak that have amassed a fervent voter base in recent years, such as Trump, Meloni and Milei and previously Erdogan, Bolsonaro and Imran Khan.

Aatish Taseer, in his informative article, writing for TIME says, “Populists come in two forms: those who are of the people they represent (Erdogan in Turkey, Bolsonaro in Brazil), and those who are merely exploiting the passions of those they are not actually part of” (the champagne authoritarians: the Brexiteers, Donald Trump, Imran Khan in Pakistan). “Narendra Modi belongs very firmly to the first camp and his election was nothing short of a class revolt at the ballot box.”

Tales of a young Modi selling tea at railway stations endeared him to millions of underprivileged Indians, who believe he understands their struggles.

Indians were “mesmerised” by his story as a “backlash against nepotism, entitlement and dynastic politics”, political analyst Sanjay Jha says.

It exposed what American historian Anne Applebaum has described as “unresolvable divisions between people who had previously not known that they disagreed with one another.”


There had, of course, been political differences before, but what Modi’s election revealed was a cultural chasm. It was no longer about left, or right, but something more fundamental.

Soon after he took office, his government embarked on several reforms, including campaigns to improve India’s transportation infrastructure and to liberalize rules on direct foreign investment in the country

Modi oversaw a promotion of Hindu culture and the implementation of economic reforms. The government undertook measures that would broadly appeal to Hindus, such as the building of a “Hindu Vatican.” The economic reforms were sweeping, introducing structural changes—and temporary disruptions—that could be felt nationwide. Among the most far-reaching was the withdrawal of 500- and 1,000-rupee banknotes with only a few hours’ notice. The purpose was to stop the storage of “black money”—cash used for illicit activities and corruption and to avoid payment of tax.

Rising costs of living, inflation and increasing unemployment disappointed many, as grand promises of economic growth remained unfulfilled.

To his devoted followers, he’s a man who has transformed the lives of ordinary Indians with his welfare and social policies – whilst cementing India as a key power broker. But to his critics, he’s a divisive leader, whose Hindu nationalist ambitions have given rise to growing religious persecution and Islamophobia, with many of the country’s 14% of Muslims fearing his re-election (approximately 172 million), according to TIME.

The King is dead, long live the King

In 2014, Modi was elected by the greatest mandate the country had seen in 30 years. India until then, had been ruled primarily by one party–the Indian National Congress (INC), the party of Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru for 54 of the 67 years that the country had been free.

TIME writes, “Nehru’s political heirs, who ruled India for the vast majority of those post-independence years, established an archaic, feudal dynasty, while outwardly proclaiming democratic philosophy and principles. India, under their rule, was clubbish, anglicized and fearful of the rabble at the gates.”

In May 2014, those gates were breached when the BJP, under Modi, won 282 of the 543 available seats in Parliament, reducing the INC from an all-time high of over 400 seats to 44, a number so insignificant that India’s oldest and most powerful party, no longer had the right to lead the opposition.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the general elections in May 2014. Their campaign, focused on economic reforms and rooting out corruption, was backed by the corporate sector and captured the imagination of many Indians, who were tired of the country’s economic malaise and political stagnation. On the same page was Modi‘s style, appealing to both the affluent and the poor, especially the Hindu majority of India’s population, giving him enduring popularity despite controversies.

The BJP is expected to maintain its dominance, building on its majority in the 2019 elections, where Modi received a second landslide mandate from the electorate. However, the real test comes in 2024 as the world’s largest democracy goes to the polls again.

The Davidian train station tea seller had cut down the goliath Indian National Congress. Beating Rahul Gandhi, the billionaire heir to the world’s longest, most successful and arguably unmeritocratic and nepotistic political dynasty, with three prime ministers, his father, grandmother and great grandfather in his family tree.

India and Indian politics would never be the same again.

The next ten years would be, even by Indian standards, some of the most tumultuous the country has ever seen.

Tune in tomorrow for The Modi Answer – Part 2: “The Religious War against Women”.