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Calls grow for Modi to run for PM

Hardline Hindu nationalist triumphs in state election

Calls grow for Modi to run for PM
Narendra Modi supporters line the streets of Ahmedadbad
Swati Deb, New Delhi

December 21, 2012

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After recording a resounding victory in the Gujarat state election with official results confirmed yesterday, divisive Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi is being widely tipped to run to become the next prime minister of the world's most populous democracy.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 115 out of 182 seats in this week’s state assembly poll, a decisive win over the opposition Congress Party which claimed just 61 seats.

With the Congress-led federal government looking increasingly vulnerable, commentators believe that the general election could happen before 2014, as scheduled, with Modi tipped to run for the BJP following his third straight poll win in Gujarat.

“Modi’s victory and the undercurrent of unhappiness with the present Congress government headed by Manmohan Singh … could bring an early general election in 2013,’’ said veteran political commentator Hari Jaisingh.

Accused of promoting sectarian violence in Gujarat which led to the deaths of thousands of Muslims, Modi is among the most controversial politicians in India.

A self-described Hindu nationalist, Modi remained circumspect on his political ambitions during his recent election campaign.

“All state elections before the parliamentary polls are described as the semi-final. I am not joining the issue,” he told earlier this month.

The problem for the BJP is that many potential coalition partners – a necessity in India’s fractious, regionally diverse politics – remain unconvinced by a political figure with what appears to be almost as many detractors as supporters.

Socialists Janata Dal (United) from the eastern state of Bihar, a would-be key ally of an BJP-led coalition, have continued to oppose Modi’s candidature.

Another regional party, Shiv Sena from Maharashtra, has indicated a grudging acceptance of Modi if his name were formally proposed.

Meanwhile, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari of the ruling Congress has hinted that the party could launch an aggressive campaign against Modi over his alleged role in the deadly 2002 Gujarat riots. 

Within his own party, the calls for Modi to be anointed the BJP’s next prime ministerial candidate have been loud for some time. This week his backing has become even more vocal.

BJP parliamentarian Tarun Vijay described Modi as the “greatest leader” among Hindus after Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the ailing former prime minister.

“Modi is the most suitable candidate for PM,” he said.

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