Narendra Damodardas Modi (pronounced [ˈnəɾendrə dɑmodəɾˈdɑs ˈmodiː] (listen); born 17 September 1950) is an Indian politician serving as the 14th and current Prime Minister of India since 2014. He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014, and is the Member of Parliament for Varanasi. Modi is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation. Born to a Gujarati family in Vadnagar, Modi helped his father sell tea as a child, and has said he later ran his own stall. He was introduced to the RSS at the age of eight, beginning a long association with the organisation. Modi left home after finishing high-school in part due to an arranged marriage to Jashodaben Chimanlal, which he abandoned, and publicly acknowledged only many decades later. Modi travelled around India for two years and visited a number of religious centres before returning to Gujarat. In 1971 he became a full-time worker for the RSS. During the state of emergency imposed across the country in 1975, Modi was forced to go into hiding. The RSS assigned him to the BJP in 1985, and he held several positions within the party hierarchy until 2001, rising to the rank of General Secretary. Modi was appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001, due to Keshubhai Patel's failing health and poor public image following the earthquake in Bhuj. Modi was elected to the legislative assembly soon after. His administration has been considered complicit in the 2002 Gujarat riots, or otherwise criticised for its handling of it. A Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team found no evidence to initiate prosecution proceedings against Modi personally. His policies as chief minister, credited with encouraging economic growth, have received praise. His administration has been criticised for failing to significantly improve health, poverty, and education indices in the state. Modi led the BJP in the 2014 general election, which gave the party a majority in the Indian lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, the first time for any single party since 1984. Modi's administration has tried to raise foreign direct investment in the Indian economy, and reduced spending on healthcare and social welfare programmes. Modi has attempted to improve efficiency in the bureaucracy; he has centralised power by abolishing the Planning Commission. He began a high-profile sanitation campaign, and weakened or abolished environmental and labour laws. He initiated a controversial demonetisation of high-denomination banknotes. Described as engineering a political realignment towards right-wing politics, Modi remains a figure of controversy domestically and internationally over his Hindu nationalist beliefs and his role during the 2002 Gujarat riots, cited as evidence of an exclusionary social agenda.
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