The year 2014 has been a significant one for Indian politics. It was a year of elections, including the general election which saw the maximum number of voters casting their ballot (814.5 million) ever in the history of the world. [Flashback 2014: The biggest fall of the Congress]
The general election of 2014 saw the return of one-party majority at the Centre, something India didn't see for three decades and moreover it saw a politician, who didn't have a political surname and had also sold tea once, becoming the prime minister of the biggest democracy in the world.
Narendra Modi on way to take oath as the 15th prime minister of India in New Delhi on May 26, 2014.
Thinking beyond the petty limits of party politics, the rise of Narendra Modi as the prime minister of India vindicated the democratic struggle that India has waged for the last 67 years.
Not an easy journey though... the BJP was in a disarray
But Modi's journey was not an easy one. After two back-to-back election debacles in 2004 and 2009 and the ageing leadership at the helm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seemed to have lost the plot. Rifts were widening within it and the ‘party with a difference' was looking more like the ‘party with differences'.
Narendra Modi at a campaign during the Lok Sabha election 2014
Advani's dream was shattered
The deteriorating relation between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the body which has a strong influence on the BJP and patriarch Lal Krishna Advani who tried to undergo a Vajpayeefication after the moderate Atal Bihari Vajpayee retired from active politics made things worse.
The party had some well-performing chief ministers like Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Madhya Pradesh), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh) or Manohar Parrikar (Goa), but the top leadership looked divided and brittle. Party patriarch LK Advani (extreme left) tried to put up a lot of resistance to stop Narendra Modi's rise but failed.
Miles apart: LK Advani (extreme left) had backed Modi after the 2002 Gujarat riots but found himself at the receiving end when the latter emerged the face of the party.
There was uneasiness in the party over the handling of the tainted chief minister of Karnataka, BS Yeddyurappa, who eventually quit the party only to be brought back later by Modi. In fact, the BJP's top leadership showed its inefficiency in Karnataka where three chief ministers took oath in five years but yet could not save the party's dwindling fortunes.
Narendra Modi with former BJP president Rajnath Singh after his anointment as the party's prime ministerial candidate in September 2013.
Till about mid-2012, the Congress and the BJP were placed close in the electoral competitions across the country. Both parties failed miserably in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls earlier that year and the BJP's house looked in complete disorder.
It was in May-June when Narendra Modi began to make his first move upwards. One of his fiercest critic Sanjay Joshi was made to quit the party's national executive. Modi's third consecutive victory in the Gujarat assembly in December 2012 sealed the fate of his distractors in the state.
In March 2013, Modi was appointed to the BJP's Parliamentary Board, its highest decision-making body, and was also chosen the chairman of the party's poll campaign committee.
(from left) Sushma Swaraj, LK Advani, Nitish Kumar: Dejected with Narendra Modi's rise?
In June 2013, Modi was chosen as the head of the BJP's election campaign at the national executive meeting. These moves had rocked the BJP and its alliance, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
While LK Advani tried his best to stop Modi's rise, even at a cost of emotional blackmailing, the Janata Dal (United) powered by the then chief minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar pulled out of the NDA, causing a quake in Bihar politics. But Modi's run went on and in September 2013, he was anointed as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
This was again a blow for Advani who remained absent on the occasion.
The way was cleared for Modi
Since September 13, 2013, till May 26, 2014, it was all Narendra Modi in Indian politics. In December 2013, the BJP bagged decisive wins in assembly elections held in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and also finished as the largest party in Delhi.
The opponents only protested Modi's 3D rallies saying they were expensive but never found an answer to the unique way to reach out to the people.
Modi's pre-poll rallies almost knocked the Opposition out
The BJP's hard effort in staging pre-poll rallies that looked nothing less than glamorous corporate events married to high-quality oratory skills of the PM candidate paid off in a big way. The party's innovative thinking in organising 3-D rallies of Modi to reach out to the maximum number of voters found no answer in the opponent parties, who found no other option but to criticise the huge expenses going into those rallies.
The 'chai pe charcha' campaigns also helped Modi touch the chord of the middle and lower-middle classes. In all, Modi travelled more than 3 lakh kilometres and attended 5,827 public meetings as the BJP's PM candidate.
It was a record in itself. Besides, there were mobilisation initiatives like 'I support Narendra Modi' and 'Mission 272+', engaging with followers on social media and the campaign song of ‘Acche Din Anewale Hain' [The good days are due soon].
Modi mastered the skill of connecting to the people at these rallies almost perfectly. Yes, there were a few goofing up of names here and there but in all, Modi made his homework while speaking on issues to touch the heart of different constituencies of the society, be it the youth, soldiers, ex-servicemen, industrialists or farmers.
Compare this campaign strategy to Congress prime minister Manmohan Singh's graceful silence or vice-president Rahul Gandhi's off-the-target speeches. Half of the battle was won even before the first ballot was cast on April 7.
Modi: From grassroots to the helm
Narendra Modi was born on September 17, 1950, in a middle-class family in Vadnagar in Mehsana district of Gujarat. He ran a tea-stall with his brother as a teenager. In his youth, Modi became a RSS pracharak and made his mark as a master strategist. It was Modi whom Advani had entrusted the responsibility to organise two crucial Yatras that he had participated in the 1990s, one between Somnath and Ayodhya and other from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Narendra Modi greets Keshubhai Patel, whom he succeeded as the chief minister of Gujarat. Keshubhai is known to be a fierce critic of Modi and even floated his own party during the 2012 assembly election in the state.
Modi replaced Keshubhai Patel as the chief minister of Gujarat in October 2001 and there was no looking back for the man after that. He won three consecutive state elections even after deadly pogroms broke out in Gujarat just four months after he became the CM. Within 13 years of becoming the chief minister, Modi became the PM of India. This made his journey different from other chief ministers of his party like Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh.
Narendra Modi's position as the BJP's face was cemented in December 2013 after the BJP put up a powerful show in assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.
Even in the assembly polls that followed the general election in Maharashtra and Haryana, the BJP grabbed the power, thanks to Modi's continuing appeal among the masses.Modi becomes India's 15th prime minister:
The results of the nine-phase national election held between April 7 and May 12 were announced on May 16. It was a landslide victory for the BJP which alone grabbed 282 seats (an improvement by 166 seats from 2009) and the NDA finished with 336 seats in the Lok Sabha of 543 seats.
The second best party was the Congress with a paltry tally of 44. In Uttar Pradesh, which is considered politically the most crucial state, the BJP won 71 out of 80 seats, which is again a record in itself. Regional parties like the Samajwadi Party (5 seats), Rashtriya Janata Dal (4 seats), JD(U) (2 seats) and Bahujan Samaj Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Jammu & Kashmir People's Conference Party (no seats) were pushed to the periphery, reflecting the national electorate's dissatisfaction with the coalition pattern of politics.
Modi himself won from two seats (Varanasi and Vadodara) and he kept the first. The man won by massive victories in both seats.
Modi takes oath as Prime Minister of India:
Modi resigned from the post of chief minister of Gujarat and on May 26, he took oath along with his ministers at a grand ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The occasion was significant for it saw, besides eminent people from various walks of life, the heads of state or representatives from each of the South Asian states. Even the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, was present, which showed how much importance Modi was attaching to foreign policy from Day 1.
Narendra Modi with her 98-year-old mother Heeraben in Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
Narendra Modi after casting his ballot during the Lok Sabha election.
PM Modi: After six months in office
On November 26, Modi completed six months as the prime minister. These six months were significant for his government took a number of initiatives like ‘Make in India', 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan', 'Jan Dhan Yojana', drives for toilet, digitalisation, model village drive and many others. His appeal to the parents to look after their sons' upbringing while speaking on the rising crime against the women during his maiden Independence Day speech on August 15 was also unique.
Narendra Modi at his office after taking over as India's prime minister.
PM Narendra Modi engages in cleaning up the Ganga River bank in Varanasi under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.
PM Modi: Foreign policy
Foreign policy is a field where Modi has taken more interest in these six months. Starting with the BRICS Summit in Brazil, PM Modi has focussed on both multilateral and bilateral relations across the globe. From Bhutan and Nepal in South Asia to Japan to the United States, the ASEAN, Australia and Fiji - PM Narendra Modi has attached importance to all and sundry to ensure that India's foreign policy spreads its wings further.
PM Narendra Modi with the heads of state of Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa at the BRICS Summit at Fortaleza in Brazil in July 2014.
PM Modi addresses the people at the Madison Square in New York in USA in September 2014.
He became the first prime minister in 28 years to visit Australia and 31 years to visit Fiji, which tells how much significance India is giving to the Asia-Pacific region as a counter-strategy to China.
But it doesn't mean Modi adopted a repulsive policy on China. He played a generous host to Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife when they visited Ahmedabad in September.
PM Narendra Modi plays host to Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Pen Liyuan in Ahmedabad in September 2014.
The Indian prime minister reached out to the diaspora in the US and Australia and appealed them to help the country more to progress towards development. His government also hastened the process of visa on arrival for a number of countries.
Modi also invited US President Barack Obama to attend the Republic Day programme in New Delhi on January 26, 2015, something which has no precedent.
The Modi government also made clear the way for a enclaves exchange agreement with Bangladesh which is expected to be a successful strategy to contain the threat of infiltration from the neighbouring country.
PM Narendra Modi meets US President Barack Obama during his visit to the USA in September 2014.
PM Narendra Modi with his predecessor Manmohan Singh.
Challenges for PM Modi:
PM Modi has done everything right so far. However, like every other politician in power, he is also bound to face some challenges and those will grow as he will grow older as the prime minister.
The issue of bringing back the black money stashed in foreign banks is something the Modi administration will have to address conclusively.
Narendra Modi in Varanasi where he defeated Aam Aadmi Party's Arvind Kejriwal by a big margin in this year's Lok Sabha election.
Besides, the occurrence of hate speeches emanating from his own ministers is another reason to worry for there are people in the right-wing camp that Modi's empowerment has given them the licence to do whatever they feel to. Reining in these elements is a key task cut out for the prime minister.
PM Narendra Modi gives his maiden Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 2014.
Narendra Modi with Bollywood actor Salman Khan at a kite-flying ceremony in Ahmedabad in January 2014.
Corruption is another challenge for Modi. There are members in the government who have corruption charges against them and the onus will be on Modi, who spoke enough against the corruption in the ranks of the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government during his pre-poll rallies, to ensure that he practises what he preaches.
PM Narendra Modi in Nagaland.
PM Narendra Modi flags off the first train to Meghalaya from Guwahati in Assam on November 29, 2014.
Terrorism is another threat which the Modi government is already perceiving. The recent unearthing of terror links between West Bengal and Bangladesh has raised enough question that the Modi government will have to answer in future. Add with that the perennial cross-border terror threat from Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.
PM Narendra Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after taking oath.
And finally, the issue of financial turnaround. This is perhaps the biggest challenge for Modi. Economic stagnation spelt disaster for the previous government and Modi would know very well that this is a litmus test that he has to pass with satisfactory marks.
These apart, 2014 has been the year of Modi. It marked the culmination of his rise in politics.