Narendra Modi turns 71: Five lesser-known anecdotes from his life

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned 71 on Friday. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has planned a nationwide grand celebration on this occasion. The BJP’s plans include organising Covid-19 vaccination camps, sanitation drives and blood donation camps across the country.

The scale of celebration appears unprecedented given that PM Modi has been known since his days as Gujarat chief minister not to celebrate his birthday with such fanfare in public. In the latter part of his over 12-year-stint as Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi began observing “sadbhavna” (goodwill) fast on his birthday.

PM Modi celebrates his birthday, here are a few lesser-known anecdotes about his life:

WANTED TO JOIN ARMY

As a child, Narendra Modi dreamt of joining the Indian Army. His aim was to get admitted to a Sainik School in Jamnagar. However, the meagre earnings of his family denied him the chance.

His father had a small tea stall at the Vadnagar railway station in the Mahesana district of Gujarat. That tea stall was the principal source of earnings for the family that lived in a small house of 40 feet by 12 feet.

His love for the army stayed with him. At the time of the India-Pakistan war in 1965, Narendra Modi, a teenage boy, served tea to jawans travelling in trains and passing through the nearby railway station.

As prime minister, Narendra Modi has celebrated festivals such as Diwali among the jawans of the Indian Army.

A DEBATER

Born and received school education in Vadnagar, Narendra Modi was known as an extrovert boy who was active in extracurricular activities. He used to participate in debates and discussions and spent hours in the school library to prepare his topic well.

He developed a penchant for building arguments in his debates and speeches. This proved crucial as he entered active politics. His debating skills saw him being appointed as the BJP spokesperson and later a powerful speaker who moved the electorate first in Gujarat and then across the country leading to what was termed as the Modi wave in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

DREAM OF RENUNCIATION

At a very young age, Narendra Modi was drawn towards the works of Swami Vivekananda. He developed an inclination towards a life mirroring Vivekananda’s.

He dreamt of living a life of renunciation and asceticism, for which he gave up eating salt, chillies, oil and jaggery. That dream set him on a journey across India, from Gujarat to West Bengal and then to the Himalayas.

SAID NO TO ARMED OPPOSITION

Narendra Modi was in his twenties when an anti-establishment agitation called the Navnirman movement began in 1973 in Gujarat. He participated in the agitation of the students, later involving stalwarts from the opposition parties.

Freedom fighter Jayaprakasah Narayan, an anti-graft crusader, provided the final leadership to the agitation that sparked off from Gujarat in the west and Bihar in the east. It was during this agitation that Narendra Modi got a chance to interact with JP.

It was also the same period when Narendra Modi met another stalwart, labour union leader George Fernandes, who had gone underground after the Indira Gandhi government imposed a national emergency in the wake of the popular agitation.

Story has it that George Fernandes proposed armed opposition to Indira Gandhi’s rule during his interaction with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Nanaji Deshmukh and Narendra Modi, who refused saying that the character of the Navnirman movement must remain non-violent.

‘WILL BE PM’: DHIRUBHAI AMBANI PREDICTED

Reliance Group’s founder Dhirubhai Ambani is said to have predicted about 20 years before the actual event that Narendra Modi would become India’s prime minister. The story was shared by Dhirubhai Ambani’s son Anil Ambani.

According to Anil Ambani, it was in the 1990s when Dhirubhai Ambani one day invited Narendra Modi over dinner. After he left, Dhirubhai Ambani told Anil Ambani that Narendra Modi ‘lambi race ne ghodo chhe, leader chhe, PM banse (is a dark horse, leader, will become the prime minister)’.

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