Lifestyle & Belief

India: Is Narendra Modi gaining traction for a run at the PM's office?


Gujarat state Chief Minister Narendra Modi (2R) inspects a Guard of Honour during a passing out parade at the Gujarat Police Academy in Karai near Gandhinagar, some 30 kms from Ahmedabad on June 11, 2012. The Hindu nationalist leader is arguably the popular choice of the party faithful to be the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) next candidate for prime minister. But he has entrenched opponents within the upper echelons of the BJP, and faces questions over whether he would be acceptable to the party's inevitable coalition partners.

Nobody excites more controversy in India than Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi -- who has made his state the darling of industrialists and pulled in billion dollar investments from Ford Motor Co. and Peugeot, but has not been able to shake allegations that he held back police during deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in Ahmedabad in 2002.

But even as the debate rages on about whether Modi has the mainstream appeal needed to bring his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power, or even the support he needs from top-level party apparatchiks, he may well be quietly making himself inevitable, reports the BBC.

Citing Modi's recent efforts to improve his image with some positive data about the plight of Muslims during his three terms as chief minister, commentator Samar Halarnkar argues that the controversial leader may well be on track to make his detractors irrelevant -- whether or not he can silence them.

In conversations on the street and living room, in newspaper column and talk show, it is impossible to miss India's yearning for the rule of law, sense of purpose and leaders who can lead, Halarnkar, who objects to Modi's Hindu nationalist ideology, acknowledges.

At this time of uncertainty, Mr Modi stands out, something his own party, the BJP - once wary of his ambitions and dictatorial tendencies - now accepts.

When I visited Gujarat last year, I saw the uncommon energy and initiative he had engendered among his bureaucrats by freeing them from the whims of his ministers.

In the end, though, even if the BJP gets more votes than any other party, it won't come down so much to the BJP leadership, or the party's supporters, as to the party's coalition partners in the National Democratic Alliance. An outright majority is practically out of the question, so the choice for PM will have to be palatable to figures like Orissa's Naveen Patnaik and Bihar's Nitish Kumar -- both of whom have clear reservations about the more virulent strains of Hindu nationalism, possibly some personal objections to Modi himself, and quite likely some aspirations of their own to sit in the prime minister's chair.