I will not walk on the beaten paths

Mine are different, random walks.

(From Modi’s poem Introduction to the Honeybee)

Polariser, divisive, more recently, Danga Babu (rioter) to his detractors; visionary, leader, efficient administrator to his supporters — there is no consensus on who Narendra Damodardas Modi is.

From an ordinary Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak to a general secretary of the BJP, from taking oath as the Chief Minister of Gujarat to becoming the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, Mr. Modi’s rise within the party and on the national political scene is as mystifying as his persona.

Born in a poor family, took up odd jobs, left home, left his wife, joined the RSS that paved the way for his entry into politics, started at the bottom and finally rose to the most coveted position — this snapshot of Mr. Modi’s life is tailor-made for the celluloid. Except, the horrific 2002 Gujarat riots sketched his character in complete opposition to that of hero. Those opposed to his politics and sceptical of his “secular credentials” continue to see him as a man who will spell doom for a secular India.

So how did Narendra Modi emerge as the “leader” chosen by a secular and democratic India?

In tandem with the concerted opposition, a tactically planned and executed image-building exercise has been credited for the turnaround — from a leader not acceptable to the “seculars” to a man who can offer a “stable government” and “good governance”. The corporate sector has chipped in with the approval of the “vibrant Gujarat”.

Those who work with him say he is not one to depend on others and leads from the front. While his team provides inputs, he reads up on the places he visits and talks of issues that will forge an instant connection between him and the people.

He has even managed to adroitly use every barb thrown at him to his advantage. “Woh naamdar hai, mai kaamdar hoon [they have the legacy, I have the credentials].” He used the meant-to-be derogatory “chaiwalla” (tea seller) comment to establish himself as an ordinary man who was challenging the high and the mighty.

Promising more jobs, a robust economy, national security, improved international ties and inclusive growth and development, the “merchant of death” has become the dream merchant for the young, the wearied and the doubtful.