Sunday, December 23, 2007

Narendra Modi unstoppable

Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat who won a third term in office on Sunday, believes he is a messiah tasked with ensuring his state remains among India's most developed.

He is either adored or abhorred, held in awe or shunned as a pariah. But whichever way he is treated, Modi, 57, has ensured he is one politician India cannot ignore.

On Sunday, he showed why.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were forecast to have only a narrow edge ahead of Gujarat's Dec. 11 and Dec. 16 polls with Congress, which is in power centrally, snapping at his heels.

But the results surpassed expectations even of party managers in New Delhi, with the BJP winning or leading in 119 of the total 182 seats, compared to 127 in 2002.

"Narendra Modi has immense credibility with the people of Gujarat," said Arun Jaitley, a senior BJP leader and party strategist for the state. "Here is a man who is honest, he is obsessed with what he does, he is committed to the people."

That, however, is just one side of the image of Modi, a grey-bearded, bespectacled, fiery orator who has come close to becoming the rock star of right-wing politics in India.

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