May 17, 2014 6:05 am JST

Narendra Modi: from errand boy to India's standard-bearer

SATORU IWASAKI, Nikkei Staff writer

NEW DELHI -- Narendra Modi, India's next prime minister, has risen from a modest background as a tea seller to the top of India's government, supported by his deep Hindu faith.

     Modi, 63, comes from a small village in the province of Gujarat. His family belongs to one of India's lowest castes.

     In his teens, the avowed Hindu nationalist joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a reformist organization that aims to revive Hindu beliefs and culture and which supports the Bharatiya Janata Party. He started off as an errand boy for the group and gradually distinguished himself.

     After studying political science at Gujarat University, Modi joined the BJP in 1987 and became chief minister of Gujarat in 2001.

     He persuaded automaker Tata Motors to build a plant in Gujarat by directly texting the cellphone of Ratan Tata, then chairman of the conglomerate. Even now, he issues direct instructions to provincial officials.

     Many in the business world praise him for having a CEO's mentality, but more than a few in the BJP call him autocratic. He has also drawn criticism for saying that he will deport Bangladeshi residing in India.

     Modi is known for being pro-Japanese, visiting the country in 2007 and 2012. He has close ties to the Japanese business community and is friendly with Suzuki Motor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Osamu Suzuki.

     He was believed to be single, but revealed after his nomination as BJP candidate that he is married. The marriage was arranged in his teens, and he has never lived with his wife, Modi says.