India elections: In Narendra Modi's home town, supporters tell heroic tales of the man who could be the country's next Prime Minister

The stories are intended to show Mr Modi's finer qualities, but some are more believable than others

Vadnagar

In the ancient town of Vadnagar, one hears a lot about crocodiles. Some of the stories relate to the final reptile found in the town's Sharmishtha lake which was stuffed and hung on the wall of the library 50 years ago.

Yet most are about a baby crocodile, captured in the same lake a few years earlier, by the town's most famous son, Narendra Damodardas Modi.

The story tells how as a young boy, Mr Modi, a keen swimmer who swam every day, found the young crocodile which he took home with the intention of keeping as a pet. Yet when his mother explained to him how sad the crocodile would be without its own mother, young Narendra returned it. “At the time there were 35-40 crocodiles in the lake,” claimed Ramesh Thakur, a diamond polisher.

The tale, presumably told to highlight the young Mr Modi's adventurousness, compassion and obedience to his mother, is one of a number of stories told about the man many believe could be India's next prime minister in the town where he grew up. Some are more believable than others.

Mr Modi was born in Vadnagar in 1950, the third of six children. His father ran a tea stall at the railway station. Locals said the the long-shuttered stall, covered in cobwebs, stopped being profitable after the number of trains passing through Vadnagar on the single-gauge line was reduced 20 years ago.

The school attended by Mr Modi, Bhagavatacharya Narayanacharya High School, originally built in 1893 and updated in 1949, is close to the station. According to a comic book recently produced by Mr Modi's supporters, he was a model pupil, confronting bullies, clambering into a tree to rescue a trapped bird and studying relentlessly. He was also good at sports.

“I gathered the stories from an existing Narendra Modi book. They are all genuine stories,” said Ahmedabad-based entrepreneur Jignesh Gandhi, producer of the comic book Young Narendra.

As a boy Mr Modi, it is said, also had a heart of gold. “One time there were floods in Assam. Modi had no money but he set up a tea stall at the fair and gave away the proceeds,” said Rathibhai Bhasuan, a retired history professor, who said he had been told this by one of Mr Mod's brothers. He is even said to have served tea to Indian soldiers on their way to the battlefront.

Mr Modi was born on a narrow, two-storey house located on a street named after his clan inside the walled quarter of the city. A cousin, Arvind Modi, one of numerous people in Vadnagar who claimed to have been present when Mr Modi captured the crocodile, said that while he was at school he displayed natural leadership qualities.

BJP leader Narendra Modi waves on his way to filing his nomination papers BJP leader Narendra Modi waves on his way to filing his nomination papers (Getty Images)
In everything he did, Mr Modi apparently took the lead - games, drama and other school activities. Once he produced a play about Jogidas Khuman, a Robin-Hood-style king who helped the poor. “He was very good at drama” claimed his cousin. “He acted in it and produced it. He played the part of the king.”

Sunil Mehta, a former head of the local unit of Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and now Vadnagar's mayor, claimed everyone in the town was happy “that Narendra Modi is going to be prime minister of India”. He claimed Vadnagar had a very “pure heritage” with many ancient temples. He had also heard about Modi and the crocodile, though the admitted he was not present when it had happened.

Asked how Mr Modi may have been inspired by Vadnagar, Mr Mehta told the story of two young women, Tara and Riri, celebrated for their devotional singing. One day their singing was heard by Tansen, the court musician of the 16th Century Moghul emperor Akbar.

According to legend, Tansen was touring India to seek a cure for the heat and fire supposedly produced whenever he performed a specific melody, or raga. On hearing the two women sing, Tansen felt instantly cooler and he tried to arrange for the women to accompany him back to the court in Delhi. Yet the women said they could only perform for God and instead drowned themselves in the well.

Today a quiet park, built with money provided by the state government, marks the spot where the women refused to accede to the demands of the Muslim invaders.

Vadnagar was also where Mr Modi's marriage was arranged with Jashodaben Modi, who came from the extended clan. Both were said to be aged 17 and Mr Modi left within a matter of months, preferring - so another well-told story goes - to devote himself to a Hindu nationalist group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and to serving India.

For many years Mr Modi refused to talk about this aspect of his life. But last month when he filed his nomination papers Vadodara, Mr Modi wrote the name Jashodaben under the column marked “family”.

His wife lives with her family in the village of Brahmanwada, about 20 miles from Vadnagar. Reports in the Indian media said her family claimed she was one a month-long pilgrimage with other women and would return after the election.

Trikamlal Makwna, president of the town’s library, which looks out over the now green waters of Sharmishtha lake Trikamlal Makwna, president of the town’s library, which looks out over the now green waters of Sharmishtha lake
Yet when The Independent visited there were more stories. Apparently Mr Modi's wife was attending a family wedding, though her relatives could not agree on where it was taking place. Her younger brother, Kamlesh Modi, said she was happy her husband had finally acknowledged their marriage.

“100 per cent Narendra Modi will become prime minister. Jashodaben will be voting,” he said.

Not everyone in Vadnagar appeared to support Mr Modi. Popat Patel, 84, a retired farmer who was walking through the town in traditional white shirt and trousers, said he had always supported the Congress party but that he did not plan to vote on the 30th, when Gujarat goes to the polls. The current generation of politicians, he said, did not match the ones he knew when he was young.

There were even some who dared to admit uncertainty about the story of Mr Modi's pet crocodile. Trikamlal Makwna, president of the town's library, which looks out over the now green waters of Sharmishtha lake, said: “It's anybody's guess as to whether it's true or not.”

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
A speech made by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister urging women not to laugh in public in order to preserve morality has sparked a backlash on social media from women posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at his remarks.
GALLERYWhy are Turkish women having a chuckle at the government's expense?
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN KS1 Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Qualified and experi...

KS2 Teacher

£21588 - £31552 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Exceptional teacher ...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to be part ...

Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are currently recruitin...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star