Andrew Buncombe: Undecided – the politician critics saw as a rabble-rouser

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The Independent Online

Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, is perhaps the most controversial politician in India. He is also one of the most successful.

In the aftermath of the 2002 violence that swept through his state, the chief minister campaigned for re-election, promoting himself as a politician who would protect Gujarat against the threat of "terrorists". He was subsequently returned and when, in 2007, he went to the polls for the third time, he was similarly successful.

Given his success, there were many within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who believed he had the ability to become a national leader. But his largely ineffectual performance as a national campaigner in the 2009 general election suggested that his appeal was not universal. At the same time, within Gujarat, where he has promoted good governance and anti-corruption measures, he remains popular and has received the backing of leading businessmen such as Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani.

Mr Ambani, head of Reliance Industries, praised his "visionary, effective and passionate leadership". Mr Modi's critics accuse him of arrogance and authoritarianism. He almost never grants interviews to the media.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Modi will escape the fallout of the special investigations, though he has repeatedly said he is innocent of all allegations directed at him.

One of the incidents being investigated is the killing of up to 70 Muslims in a housing complex in Ahmedabad called the Gulbarg Society. People had taken shelter in the home of former MP, Ehsan Jafri, and as a Hindu mob surrounded the house, the politician is said to have called Mr Modi and directly asked him for help. Last year, an eyewitness to the incident, Imtiyaz Pathan, told The Independent that after Mr Jafri put down the phone he said that Mr Modi had told him there would be "no deployment of police" to save the besieged Muslims.

Mr Jafri was among those who were hacked to death and set on fire. His body has never been found.