India's Modi wins state poll, may boost prime ministerial ambitions

Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:56am EST
 
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By Matthias Williams

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Narendra Modi won a fourth successive term as the chief minister of India's Gujarat state on Thursday, a victory that could launch the prime ministerial ambitions of one of the country's most popular but controversial leaders.

Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 115 of the state legislative assembly's 182 seats against 61 for the Congress party, which heads India's national government.

The result is likely to have repercussions far beyond the borders of the prosperous western state of 60 million people.

The BJP won 117 seats in 2007 and analysts say Modi needed another convincing victory to present himself as the party's presumptive candidate for prime minister in national elections due by 2014.

Modi's win could fire up the ailing main opposition BJP, giving it a leader who inspires euphoric support for the high growth, uninterrupted power supply and safe streets he is credited with providing in Gujarat.

But the 62-year-old Modi, portrayed by his critics as a closet Hindu zealot, could prove too divisive a figure to become a nationally acceptable leader who would also need to win over enough allies to form a coalition government.

That could play into the hands of the Congress party as it prepares to launch Rahul Gandhi, heir to India's most powerful political dynasty, as the man to take over the reins from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"Markets will now ponder upon whether the PM candidate from the BJP will be Narendra Modi, and whether we are looking at a showdown between Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi in 2014," said Deven Choksey, managing director of K R Choksey Securities.   Continued...

 
Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat state, gestures as he addresses his supporters during a felicitation ceremony outside the party office in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Amit Dave