When Narendra Modi became prime minister of India in May 2014, there were plenty of hopes and fears: hopes that the industrial growth he had presided over as chief minister of Gujarat state would spread nationwide; fears that, given tense inter-communal relations in Gujarat, a Modi-led India would lose touch with its secularist ideals. To a considerable extent, both have been realised.

Many voters saw Modi as a breath of fresh air after years of rule by the Congress Party (in power for 49 of the nation’s 70-year independent existence). But if Congress was tired, as many believed, then Modi’s party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was little known. Its charismatic leader, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had only once led a reformist coalition government (1998-2004), and until the 2014 national election, Modi had confined himself to regional politics in his home state.

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