State win opens India up to Hindu hardliner

Narendra Modi won a convincing victory in the Gujarat state election

Delhi

India’s most controversial politician has taken what his supporters believe is a step closer to becoming Prime Minister by securing his third electoral victory and positioning himself up for a general election showdown, perhaps against Rahul Gandhi.

Narendra Modi won a convincing victory in the Gujarat state election, cementing his position as a rising figure in India’s main opposition party and pressing his case to be its Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014.

“Voters know what is good for them. Voters have an eye on the future,” Mr Modi declared in a victory speech in Ahmedabad that was televised across the country. “I take pride in the fact that Gujarat’s voters have voted for good governance and development.”

Mr Modi led the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to its fifth successive victory in the western Indian state, securing at least 115 seats out of 180 in the local assembly. It was less than some had predicted – Mr Modi among them – but underlined his solid base.

“I think this makes him more or less primus inter pares [first among equals]. How you actualise that is the next question,” said Swapan Dasgupta, a leading conservative commentator. “It now depends on how much momentum he can build, how much pressure from the grass roots he can place on the party leadership.”

Mr Modi has always been popular with the more hardline element within the BJP. But he also has many opponents, both within the party and outside. Most importantly, in the eyes of many he remains linked to the killing of hundreds of Muslims, slaughtered in a wave of violence that swept through the state in 2002 at a time when Mr Modi was chief minister.

Earlier this year, one of Mr Modi’s former ministers, Maya Kodnani, was jailed for 28 years after being convicted of her role in the killing of 97 people. The court was told she had handed out weapons. Mr Modi denied he looked the other way while the violence took place and a special inquiry cleared him, yet for large numbers of Indians Mr Modi remains a toxic figure.

“I do not think [he is ready to become Prime Minister]. He is a polarising figure,” said Fr Cedric Prakash, a rights activist from the state. “For a national figure one needs to be more inclusive. You cannot be a one-man show.”

During the campaign, Mr Modi promoted his record in overseeing development in the state and attracting foreign and domestic businesses to invest there. Earlier this year, the British government ended a 10-year boycott of the chief minister in a move that was seen as further recognition of both the business opportunities in the state and Mr Modi’s growing status within India’s political establishment.

In a move some commentators saw as perhaps symbolic, Mr Modi chose to deliver his victory speech in Hindi, the lingua franca of large parts of India, rather than Gujarati, the local language he had used in the campaign.

The ruling Congress Party will be disappointed it did not do better in the state, despite dispatching such high-profile figures as its leader Sonia Gandhi, and her son, Rahul.

The party has said Mr Gandhi will head its 2014 general election campaign but with his continued apparent reluctance to put himself forward has stopped short of naming him as its candidate for Prime Minister.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...