Narendra Modi has been chosen to lead India’s main opposition party’s campaign in next year’s presidential race. The charismatic, controversial chief minister of Gujarat is a rising star in the BJP party, and as India’s election season picks up pace, no doubt we’re going to see more of him.But the “deeply divisive” figure—as the BBC calls him—has his fair share of problems. Some of them are more intractable than others. For one thing, because of his alleged role in the deadly 2002 riots in Gujarat, he’s not so popular in the US—when he was scheduled to speak at a UPenn event by videoconference, a group of students and alumni protested so vociferously that the administration canceled Modi’s speech. He is still not permitted by the State Department to visit the country. His standing in the global business community is much higher, however; he is credited with turning Gujarat into India’s most business-friendly state. Critics say that this successful industrial narrative disguises a darker truth: poor, rural Gujaratis are among India’s worst off; Gujarat consistently ranks near the bottom of human development indicators.Modi’s most important problem, however, is not human development or his relationship with the United States—it’s his appeal within his own country. The BJP is historically a Hindu nationalist party and Muslims still resent him for the riots in 2002. His business-friendly reputation attracts India’s upper and middle classes, but the Congress Party is far more popular among the poor. Modi’s BJP does not have the country-wide appeal that Congress does—despite Modi campaigning hard in Karnataka before elections there last month, the BJP, which had run the state government for the past five years, was thrown out after a solid drubbing at the polls. Modi’s image as an incorruptible, efficient bureaucrat is tarnished by the accusations of corruption that played a big role in the BJP’s defeat in Karnataka.So Modi will lead the BJP into next year’s election, but he has his work cut out for him. Indians are disillusioned with the Congress Party, which leads the ruling coalition. Will Modi be able to capitalize on this sentiment across the country? Will he be able to convince the US to stop considering him a pariah? No doubt it will be an interesting campaign, with important implications for the relationship between the world’s two largest democracies.