Narendra Modi who has steered BJP to an unprecedented victory on Friday remains a mystery. Even those who claim to be close to him do not have the full measure of the man. Yet at public rallies he exercises a magic over the crowds as they lustily cheer him.
The most maligned politician of the decade, Modi, has worked his way to the pinnacle of power — the prime minister of India. He does not wear his emotions on his sleeve. One of the reasons, he argued in his blog, that he could not express his anguish over the 2002 riots because he felt that a ruler cannot indulge in public display of emotions. He takes the role of the ruler absolutely seriously.
Modi, while shedding the old tag of a Hindutva poster boy, preferred to be associated with adjectives like 'great dreamer'; 'remarkable ability'; 'hard taskmaster'; 'strict disciplinarian'; 'amazing'; 'realist'; 'idealist'; 'clarity of vision, sense of purpose, diligent perseverance'; 'excellent organizational ability', 'rich insight into human psychology'; 'sheer strength of character and courage' which he used to describe himself in his website.
He smiles but a sense of irony is writ large there. He does not show his anger either. He is aggressive and brusque. And he has the preacher's passion when he speaks tirelessly about his ideas.
He is aware that he does not belong to the well-heeled class but that he has the power to play their patron. He bristles in the company of the sophisticated as they do in his. He is not at ease in company. He is earnest and serious. There is no touch of lightness about him.
When he saw the prime minister's residence at 7, RCR in the early 1990s, Modi may not have known it would be his future home some day.
Modi was Gujarat BJP general secretary then and the inhabitant of 7, RCR, was PV Narasimha Rao, whom he recently described as the man who fought for the country's economic freedom.
"Modi must have dreamt of being prime minister or a role at the national level much later during his stint as chief minister," says Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, the author of 'Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times'.
From being born in a 40 feet X 12 feet mud and brick house in Vadnagar to the sprawling 'Panchvati' in Delhi, Modi's uphill journey has been mostly off the beaten path.
The six-year-old boy who sold tea to train passengers at Vadnagar station, became the dream merchant more than five decades later with his development mantra winning over hearts that led BJP to a record, landslide victory, surpassing expectations of his own party and even his close aide Amit Shah.
Once he decided to be at the helm in Delhi, he did not let anything come in his path — neither his detractors' dubbing him as a political pariah in the aftermath of 2002 post-Godhra riots nor the allegations of being divisive and authoritarian.
"He meticulously crafted his rise. Haven't seen anyone who was so driven by his goal. Look at the way his voice cracked and the fatigue showed on his face but he campaigned till his last unit of energy," says Mukhopadhyaya.
Like his attire — pastel coloured half-sleeved made-to-order kurtas and churidars — his campaign style stood apart.
"He is a man sure of himself and his moorings. The message went around that this man can deliver without being affected by malicious and motivated campaign against him," says BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad.
He talked development and the opposition lashed out at him that he was the icon of Hindutva. He harped on creating jobs and building cities. The Congress called him divisive. Somewhere the people seemed to have felt that Modi was being pilloried without enough reason.
Like after any victory, Modi first visited his mother, who had brought up her six children washing vessels and clothes.
Modi was still in his teens when he wandered in the Himalayas. After he returned, he decided to join the RSS pracharak, a decision which led to an unconsummated marriage.
"A few people perhaps know that he is a good photographer and sometime in 1990 he actually organised an exhibition of his photographs," write MV Kamath and Kalindi Randeri in 'the Man of the Moment — Narendra Modi'.
As the Modi wave sweeps India, his critics inside and outside the party would wait to see if he will fulfil the dreams he has promised. Modi and his supporters are confident he will. Like his much-talked about holograms, will the spectre of Modi – especially Modinomics – now loom large over the future of the country. While his way of working, or as it appears, has often been compared to that of Indira Gandhi, an almost dictatorial, strong power centre, he has claimed in pre-poll interviews that its his team that actually runs the show. One got a feel of the efficacy of the team in their grip over Gujarat and their success in Uttar Pradesh.