NEW DELHI, Sept 13 (Reuters & PTI): The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday named Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its candidate for prime minister in general elections due in 2014.
BJP president Rajnath Singh made the announcement in a brief statement to journalists after a meeting of the party’s parliamentary board, which was skipped by party patriarch LK Advani. Advani had expressed “anguish” over the way the party was functioning.
Singh said leaders of all allies of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance have supported Modi's candidature.
Except Advani, the meeting of the 12-member board was attended by Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari, among others.
The decision on Modi came on a day of fast-paced developments and back-to-back meetings and last minute efforts to bring around Advani, Joshi and Swaraj.
“I will work hard to achieve victory for the BJP in 2014 elections,” Modi said afterwards, describing himself as a “small party worker” from a small town.
“We will fight against corruption, price rise and work for good governance and development,” he said.
Modi, adored by business but tainted by deadly religious riots that broke out on his watch, has methodically built a fervent fan base but has become a deeply polarising figure even within the BJP.
His supporters believe he has the drive needed to salvage a sagging economy and make India a regional superpower. Detractors see an authoritarian extremist.
A crowd of jubilant Modi supporters gathered outside the BJP's headquarters in New Delhi ahead of the formal decision to name him the party's candidate for prime minister, dancing, setting off firecrackers and handing out sweets.
Modi's elevation pits him against the Congress, which heads the fractious United Progressive Alliance coalition at in Delhi. The UPA’s second term has been tarnished by graft scandals and the poor performance of the economy, Asia’s third-largest.
Modi's success at chaperoning Gujarat's economic growth was for years overshadowed by the riots just months after he took office in 2002. A self-made success, Modi has presided over a decade of double-digit growth in Gujarat, bolstering a thriving manufacturing sector and earning a reputation as efficient administrator who speaks the language of business.
Carmakers Ford, Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors have been drawn to Gujarat.
An opinion poll published last week found that three-quarters of Indian business leaders believe the government of 80-year-old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has mismanaged the economy and they want Modi to lead the country.
Modi's star appeal convinced the BJP to anoint him well ahead of the election. But his rise came only after a power struggle in the party.
“A socially polarising leader has polarised his own party. Can he run a smooth, stable and effective government at the Centre? Think seriously!” Sudheendra Kulkarni, a close aide of Modi's main opponent in the BJP, posted on Twitter on Thursday.