Rifts exposed as Modi chosen to lead BJP into polls

NEW DELHI Mon Jun 10, 2013 3:28pm IST

1 of 3. Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat state, gestures on the podium during a felicitation ceremony outside the party office in Ahmedabad December 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave/Files

Related Topics

Stocks

   
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Election 2014

More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — are eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.  Full Coverage 

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Acrimony over the selection on Sunday of Narendra Modi to head the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) campaign in India's coming election exposed rifts within his Hindu nationalist party.

Several senior leaders of the BJP stayed away from the meeting at which Modi was appointed as standard-bearer for elections due by next May, a position that could make him the party's candidate for Prime Minister.

Under India's parliamentary system, parties do not always formally announce a candidate before a general election but usually project one figure as the likely person to form the government should the party win.

"It's broadly analogous to a primary in a U.S. political party. It will clearly establish Modi as first among equals in the BJP," Sadanand Dhume, of Washington-based think-tank the American Enterprise Institute, told Reuters.

"This doesn't mean that critics in his own party disappear, but it does mean that Modi's political fate will now be in the hands of voters rather than party political bosses."

Despite the endorsement of his party, Modi's ambition of becoming Prime Minister will be hard to realise.

This is partly because he is such a polarising figure. Modi is popular among voters who are tired of what they consider to be incompetent and corrupt governments and see him as a no-nonsense administrator who can deliver growth and development, but he is viewed with deep suspicion by others, particularly the large Muslim minority.

Many within the BJP, including party veterans whose absence from the Goa meeting became a media sensation, fear that he is too divisive to lead the party back to power after nearly a decade in opposition.

BUSINESS-FRIENDLY

His biggest hurdle, however, will be winning enough parliamentary seats for the BJP to lead a coalition government. The party has little support in many key states.

Modi, 63, has struggled to shake off criticism that he did not do enough to prevent religious rioting in 2002 that killed at least 1,000 people - most of them Muslims - in Gujarat, where he is chief minister. Modi denies any role in the killings or any negligence during the unrest.

However, industrialists openly praise him for making Gujarat a business-friendly state. Oil and gas major Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) and carmakers Ford (F.N) and Tata Motors (TAMO.NS) have invested billions of dollars in the region.

Western nations, which snubbed Modi for years after the 2002 violence, have also begun to engage with a man whose state offers lucrative business opportunities.

If Modi does make a tilt at the premiership, he could come up against Rahul Gandhi, the heir of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty who was recently made vice president of the ruling Congress party.

The Congress party, which has led a coalition government since 2004, is mired in corruption scandals and is widely blamed for the country's slowest economic growth in a decade.

However, even if the Congress party lands enough seats to lead the next government, Gandhi may stand aside for someone else to become Prime Minister, preferring to wield power from behind the scenes, as his mother Sonia Gandhi does now.

But success for the Congress party is by no means certain.

"We will leave no stone unturned for an India free of the Congress party," Modi wrote on Twitter after his selection to lead the BJP campaign.

(Editing by John Chalmers and David Goodman)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Oil Imports

Oil Imports

India to make May-July oil payments to Iran - sources.  Full Article 

DLF Shares

DLF Shares

DLF slides 3 percent, underperforms rivals.  Full Article 

Global Economy

Global Economy

Chinese factories stalling as euro zone business picks up  Full Article 

Rupee Falls

Rupee Falls

Rupee falls for third day; foreign fund inflows key.  Full Article 

Record High

Record High

BSE Sensex hits record high for third straight day.  Full Article 

M&M Upgraded

M&M Upgraded

Credit Suisse upgrades Mahindra & Mahindra to 'outperform'  Full Article 

Breakingviews

Breakingviews

Manchester United’s crisis has silver lining  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage