STORY: Chief of India’s western Gujarat state, Narendra Modi met Indian Prime Minister in New Delhi on Wednesday (February 06) for the first time after his re-election as the state chief for the fourth time.
Modi would address the students of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) as part of SRCC’s Business Conclave 2013.
Modi avoids talk of higher office, but his popularity in the state, as well as with business and many in India’s emerging urban middle class, is fueling speculation he will lead his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the ruling Congress in national elections to be held by 2014.
Modi, one of India’s most popular and divisive politicians, was the star of his “Vibrant Gujarat Summit,” which featured a parade of corporate heavyweights as well as foreign officials who extolled the business-friendly state and Modi’s leadership even as they mostly kept clear of politics.
His record as a pro-business leader presiding over a state government that wins praise for efficient administration stands in contrast to the eight-year tenure of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, which has been stymied by fractious coalition partners and a string of corruption scandals.
While big business tends to hedge its bets by backing both the main national parties in elections, industry’s support for Modi could prove a powerful source of fund-raising if he becomes the party’s standard-bearer.
The black mark against Modi, 62, is the accusation by critics that he did not do enough to stop – or even quietly encouraged – religious riots in 2002 that killed as many as 2,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Modi, fresh from a resounding December win in state legislative elections for the BJP, sat mostly unsmiling during the fulsome adulation.