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India's Hindu party elevates controversial leader Modi

Narendra Modi is accused by rights groups and survivors of stoking violence when marauding mobs of Hindus killed and burnt their way through Muslim neighbourhoods in Gujarat in 2001, leaving more than 1,100 people dead.

Gujarat state Chief Minister Narendra Modi after winning state elections last month in Gandhinagar, India.
Gujarat state Chief Minister Narendra Modi after winning state elections last month in Gandhinagar, India.

NEW DELHI // The main opposition Hindu nationalist party yesterday elevated Narendra Modi to the party's top decision-making body with his supporters believing he could become prime minister in national elections next year.

However, Rajnath Singh, the Bharatiya Janata Party president, did not name Mr Modi as the party's prime ministerial candidate apparently because of opposition from some allies.

Smriti Irani, a BJP vice president, said the party would take a decision in this regard later. It is not known when the party will announce its candidate. The elections are due in May next year.

Mr Modi 62, is a deeply divisive figure. He is accused by rights groups and survivors of not doing enough to stop the violence and even stoking it when marauding mobs of Hindus killed and burnt their way through Muslim neighbourhoods in Gujarat state in 2001, leaving more than 1,100 people dead. He was never charged with a crime.

He currently heads the BJP government in western Gujarat state. For more than a decade, he has worked to market the idea of Gujarat state as business friendly and became a hero to a generation of businessmen.

Mr Modi says he has transformed his state, bringing industries, jobs, electricity and water in a country where power outages and joblessness are epidemic.