WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — On Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, becoming the fifth Indian prime minister to do so. For the 65-year-old politician who was born to a tea seller in western India, it will be a historic moment and a feat accomplished after he was once barred from entering the country.
Modi was denied a visa to enter the United States in 2005 on religious-freedom grounds, a provision to the law only used once to deny a visa. The incident stemmed from allegations that he supported Hindu extremists during Hindu-Muslim riots in his home state in 2002. An Indian Supreme Court appointed panel eventually ruled there was no evidence to charge Modi with a crime, but it has since continued to haunt his life and political career, even after becoming prime minister in 2014.
Here is a chronicle of how Modi has gotten to where he is now:
In 2002, Modi was serving as the chief minister of the state of Gujarat when 59 Hindu pilgrims returning from a religious site were killed in a fire inside of their train. The fire was blamed on a Muslim mob. What happened next included days of rioting in which more than 1,000 were killed, many of whom were Muslims. Human rights activists accused Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party in outcry of ignoring the killings because the extremists were considered allies of him and his party.
In 2005, Modi applied for and was denied a diplomatic visa to travel to the United States to address a convention of hotel owners and business leaders. At the time, U.S. officials said he was excluded under a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that “makes any government official who was responsible for or directly carried out at any time particularly severe violations of religious freedom ineligible for a visa.”
Two years later in 2007, Modi remained a popular leader in Gujarat and was reelected. It was then that Modi began speaking more publicly about his much larger political aspirations, turning away from sectarian rhetoric and emphasizing development. He launched pilot programs to enhance foreign investment in his state. His efforts brought millions of investment dollars to Gujarat.
He remained the chief minister of the state from 2001 until 2014.
In 2012, Modi began an even firmer push to soften his public image. During an interview with The Washington Post speaking on the 2002 incident, Modi said, “I have not done anything wrong, and I am committed to the human cause.” He added, “I want to convey to the whole global world: Please try to understand, you appreciate our progress, you appreciate our development, but beyond development and progress, the real strength of Gujarat is peace, harmony and unity.”
The following year he launched his national campaign for prime minister. Modi employed heavily an element of a Western-style campaign strategy, something the country’s voting populous had never seen, including the usage of social media and other messaging tactics. At one point of the campaign, Modi even used a hologram of himself and beamed it at the large crowds that assembled to support his candidacy.
Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party scored an impressive victory during the country’s 2014 election, taking a majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament for the first time in years. United States President Barack Obama called Modi himself, extending his congratulations and putting to bed the visa issue. A White House invitation was also extended. Modi wasted no time in making headlines — he invited all the leaders of the neighboring South Asian nations, including rival Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to meet during his swearing-in ceremony.
In September of 2014, Modi finally made his return to the U.S., meeting President Obama for a private dinner, touring the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and headlined a program held at New York City’s historic Madison Square Garden which was attended by more than 18,000 members of the India diaspora.
Modi spent much of 2014 and 2015 on the road, a wide-ranging foreign-travel schedule in which he spent showcasing India as an investment destination for the rest of the world. Many have been critical of Modi’s time spent on the road, but he defends the time spent away from India as a key way to gather the necessary investments required to further develop the country’s infrastructure, such as high-speed railways, bridges and roads that India needs. He also uses the time to engage with the world’s educated and wealthy India diaspora.
In September of last year, Modi made his second return trip to the U.S. to meet with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai. The meeting was arranged to promote his Digital India campaign, an effort to link millions of Indians with the Internet and to digitalize government services.