India's main opposition party names controversial figure Modi as PM candidate for 2014 polls
India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended months of speculation Friday by anointing the controversial chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, as its prime ministerial candidate for general elections slated for next year.
BJP chief Rajnath Singh made the announcement despite stiff opposition from the party's patriarch and former Indian Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, after a meeting of the saffron outfit' s parliamentary committee in the national capital.
After the announcement, Modi pledged to lead BJP to victory in the general elections in May 2014.
"I assure that I will leave no stone unturned in working for a BJP victory in the 2014 elections. I seek the blessings of the people in our efforts to free our nation of the turbulent times we are going through. I am sure that people from Kashmir to Kanyakumari will vote for the lotus symbol," Modi said.
Modi, a mascot for development and credited for making Gujarat one of the most prosperous states in India, has long been perceived as a rising star in BJP, despite being accused of turning a blind eye to 2002 communal riots in which over 1,000 people, mostly minority Muslims, were killed.
He denies the charge and has not been convicted by a court of law till date.
Political experts say Modi is a leader hailed by India's middle- class and the business community, who see him as a corruption-free chief minister who has turned Gujarat into an economic powerhouse.
"Modi, the three-time chief minister of Gujarat, was some months back nominated to lead the BJP's poll campaign committee for the 2014 elections because of his popularity among the middle class. He being projected as the country's future leader will definitely pay off for the BJP though its senior-most leader Advani is against his candidature," said Delhi-based political analyst, Prof. Ajay Sharma.
Moreover, he is also the favorite of BJP's ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh which is a right-wing outfit.
"Modi is a brilliant speaker who has turned Gujarat into a prosperous state. If BJP can project that he will also be able to turn around the country -- the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is blamed for failing to check inflation and corruption -- then the saffron outfit will definitely have the upper hand in the next general elections," said another political expert, Prof. S.K. Singh.
Now, time will only tell if the Congress projects its leader Rahul Gandhi, the scion of Nehru-Gandhi family and the party's second-in-command, as its prime ministerial candidate in the next general elections, say the experts.
"For all probability, it will be Modi versus Rahul Gandhi. Modi will definitely have an edge over his younger rival in the world's largest democracy," Prof. Sharma said.
New Delhi (Xinhua)