Narendra Modi to Lead Opposition Party Bjp in Indian Elections

A deeply divisive figure, Mr. Modi was accused of doing little to halt anti-Muslim riots in 2002


India_Elections_0a189Narendra Modi, a controversial Indian politician, will lead Indian’s opposition party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the country’s elections next year.

His appointment as the head of the BJP Campaign Committee for 2014 General Elections came Sunday at the end of a two-day meeting of the party’s executive committee in Goa.

Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, Mr Modi, is considered a rising star in the opposition BJP party. Reports say his appointment makes it likely that he may even favored to become a possible candidate for the country’s prime minister.

Addressing party members after Mr. Modi’s appointment, BJP President Rajnath Singh said, “The country is looking up to the BJP. We need to get prepared for the elections and Modi is the most appropriate person to lead the party to the elections…he is the most popular chief minister.”

Mr. Singh said that the decision was taken on the basis of consensus. Reports, however, say that a few discordant voices had been raised and that some senior party leaders did not attend the convention. Notable among the absentees was the former deputy prime minister L K Advani.

A deeply divisive figure, Mr. was accused of doing little to halt anti-Muslim riots in his state in 2002. The riots broke out after a train burning incident in the city of Godhra which killed many Hindu pilgrims. Muslims were suspected of deliberately causing the fire that burned the train. However, investigations later showed that the cause of the fire likely started accidentally inside the train.

Allegedly, while Hindu rioters went on a rampage against the Muslims, killing people and destroying property, Modi turned a blind eye, doing little to control the rioters.

The riots killed more than 1,000 people. According to reports, Mr. Modi has yet to express remorse for the riots and many Muslims affected by the violence and displaced from their homes still find themselves living in ghettos near Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city and commercial capital.

A few months after the riots, Mr. Modi openly campaigned on a platform of hardline Hinduism, and was re-elected to the office of chief minister. Many Indians, express disdain and, say they cannot accept Mr Modi as prime minister because of his alleged role in the riots.

The US denied him visas and the UK cut off all ties with him after the incident. But 10 years later, the controversial politician seems to be on the way to being reintegrated into the political mainstream.

Among speculation that Mr. Modi may be a serious candidate for prime minister, if his party wins a majority in the upcoming elections, the British High Commission in Delhi held its first meeting with him recently.

Mr Modi has stated that he does not desire the top job after he leads the opposition party in Indian elections. He said he is getting prepared to fight another assembly election in December in his state of Gujarat.

In spite of his image, Mr. Modi is also is recognized with making Gujarat one of country’s most prosperous states. Known for his astute administrative skills, he has attracted investors and been credited for turning Gujrat’s economy around. He has tremendous support from India’s middle classes and business community. They see him as a charismatic leader who has succeeded in making Gujarat an economic power house.

According to media reports, Mr. Modi, in recent months has also been sought by international investors and foreign diplomats. He also allegedly projects an image of a “clean and efficient administrator who is corruption-free.” The fact of his appointment to lead opposition BJP in Indian elections has given him further boost.

Born in 1950, Mr. Modi is the longest-serving chief minister of Gujarat. He has held the office since 2001 and has been successfully re-elected three times.

By Perviz Walji