Modi was a low-profile BJP office-bearer till he was made chief minister of Gujarat in october 2001
Press Trust of India
New Delhi, 13 September
Mr Narendra Modi’s anointment as BJP’s Prime Ministerial nominee catapults to the national scene the Hindutva poster boy who is seen by his critics as a “polarising” and “divisive” figure after the 2002 Gujarat riots.
A three-time chief minister, Mr Modi, a former RSS pracharak (preacher) who will turn 63 on 17 September, has battled all odds and stiff opposition from within the party to emerge as the face of BJP for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
It is said about Mr Modi that you may love him or hate him but you cannot ignore him. By declaring him as its candidate, BJP, backed by RSS, pipped party veteran Mr LK Advani and long-time aspirant for the top post. In fact, Advani, once a mentor of Mr Modi, strongly opposed the projection of the Gujarat strongman.
Mr Modi, who was a low profile BJP office-bearer till he was made chief minister of Gujarat to replace Mr Keshubhai Patel in October 2001, controversially came into limelight in the wake of 2002 riots triggered after 59 Kar Sewaks were killed in the Sabarmati Express fire on 27 February.
Mr Modi was accused of inaction during the riots in which around 1000 people were killed, most of them Muslims, and is finding it difficult to shed the taint. The then prime minister Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee had reminded him of his “raj dharma” but Mr L K Advani and the late Pramod Mahajan helped Modi to survive as the chief minister.
The blot still haunts him, with critics calling him a “polarising” and “divisive” Hindutva hardliner under whose rule Muslims would not be safe. Mr Modi has also been under sustained attack over alleged fake encounters and his close aide Mr Amit Shah is under a cloud in a few of these.
Notwithstanding difficulties on these counts, Mr Modi has fought on and led BJP to three consecutive elections in Gujarat and virtually decimating the Congress in the state.
This achievement was the main factor that tilted the balance in his favour among the host of BJP leaders, including patriarch Mr Advani, as far as consideration of a face for the next elections was concerned.
Some call him BJP’s compulsion, but the party as also its mentor RSS are of the view that he is the sole leader in the saffron fold who can successfully take on the UPA in the Lok Sabha polls. He is also seen by many, including business leaders, as someone who has led Gujarat to the path of sustained development.