Modi lays down India election challenge

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 7:36am


India's main opposition Hindu nationalist party yesterday named a controversial Hindu ideologue as its candidate for prime minister if it wins national elections next year.

Narendra Modi, 62, is likely to challenge Rahul Gandhi, the heir to India's Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who is widely expected to lead the ruling Congress party in the campaign. Gandhi was elevated to the Congress party's No 2 position early this year behind his mother Sonia Gandhi, who is its president.

Modi, chief minister of western Gujarat state for the past 11 years, was accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in the state in 2002 which left more than 1,000 dead.

In his acceptance speech, Modi promised to do his best to earn public support to win power from the scandal-ridden Congress party, which has been in power for nine years.

Modi's naming was preceded by efforts by party leaders to win an endorsement for Modi from Lal Krishna Advani, 85, the most senior party leader. But Advani stayed away from the meeting, apparently to show his opposition to Modi's elevation.

Congress party prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh was chosen to fill the seat in 2004 by Sonia Gandhi, the widow of assassinated prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. But he is widely seen as keeping the seat warm until Rahul Gandhi is ready for what some see as his birthright.