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Here Comes the Modi


It’s official: the Bharatiya Janata Party has selected Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its candidate for prime minister for the 2014 parliamentary elections in India. While his candidacy is not unexpected—he has been the rising star of the BJP—it has exposed divisions not just in Indian society, but within the BJP itself.

Senior party members, including BJP leader L.K. Advani, have refused to endorse Modi. This opposition has personal and pragmatic motivations. Recently, the BJP’s Hindu nationalist platform has been less effective in winning votes in the country at large. As the 2002 Gujarat riots took place under Modi’s watch, his reputation, especially among Muslims, has been permanently tarnished and may damage the BJP’s prospects in 2014. Modi’s authoritative leadership style also has alienated plenty within BJP’s coalition, including the Janata Dal United led by the popular Nitish Kumar from Bihar.

That said, Modi has a significant popular following, and the BJP must have wagered that his charisma and excellent record as chief minister of Gujarat give the party its best shot in 2014. Given the corruption scandals and anemic economic growth that has plagued the government this term, the BJP has a good chance of snagging a powerful position in parliament, and Modi has a good chance of becoming India’s next prime minister. But the BJP has a lot of work to do if it’s going to convince India’s mind-bogglingly disparate voting population that Modi is capable of representing them all and leading the country through this difficult time.

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