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In India, a Hindu nationalist rebuilds image with Muslim votes (+video)

Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi secured his fourth term as chief minister of India's Gujarat State, despite his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, in which some 1,000 Muslims were killed.

The controversial Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi heads for a landslide election win in the Indian state of Gujarat, firming up his chances of running for prime minister in 2014.
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The Hindu nationalist leader of the western state of Gujarat, known for his alleged role in the 2002 riots in which 1,000 Muslims were killed, won his fourth consecutive term as chief minister in a landslide on Thursday. The victory puts the controversial figure on track to be a strong contender for prime minister of India in 2014.

Despite the controversy surrounding Chief Minister Narendra Modi, he played a critical role in putting Gujarat on a path of consistent economic growth. His win also marks a major defeat for the Congress party, which came in a distant second with 61 seats in the general assembly, compared with 118 seats for his Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).

Mr. Modi stands out for many as a viable leader because of his recent record of good governance, development, and economic growth, coupled with the Indian Congress’s failure to effectively manage the country.

“It’s the vacuum of leadership that has India desiring a really strong leader who can take action and take this country forward,” says pollster Yahswant Deshmukh. “That’s why even a polarizing figure like Modi is being talked about and looked upon to give that kind of leadership.”

The BJP's victory is "a message to everyone that development and good governance triumph over divide and rule politics," Modi posted on his Twitter feed.

Modi’s image is still marred by the bloody Gujarat riots, which put the city on edge and raised minority tensions in the Hindu majority state. Many politicians within his own party refuse to work with him, fearing that doing so will taint their image. In 2005, the US State Department even denied him a visa.

But for a growing number of the more than 60 million people living in Gujarat, Modi’s record during his decade as chief minster has created a number of believers in his vision for the state – including Muslims.


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