Narendra Modi’s elevation as BJP’s campaign chief for 2014 Lok Sabha elections on Sunday has strengthened his political legitimacy after struggling to shed the “communal” tag that has haunted the Gujarat Chief Minister since the 2002 riots.
Often called the BJP’s poster boy, Mr. Modi is seen as India’s most divisive politician -- loved and loathed in equal measure -- but winning a record third term as chief minister of Gujarat last December has put the controversial politician straight in the national league and a prime ministerial contender of the saffron party.
The 63-year-old Mr. Modi has successfully established Gujarat as a thriving business model even as he apparently failed to brush off the ‘taint’ of having failed to be a good administrator during the post-Godhra riots.
Mr. Modi has been accused of deliberately not doing enough to stop the violence in which at least 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and leaving the state communally polarized.
A brilliant speaker, Mr. Modi has been credited for bringing prosperity and development to Gujarat and enjoys support from some of India’s top industrialists.
Considered to be business friendly, Mr. Modi, a bespectacled man with a trimmed white beard and who has a formidable reputation as a party organiser, has earned the image of a clean and efficient administrator who is corruption-free.
A pracharak for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Mr. Modi, who is always seen in his trademark half-sleeves kurta, enjoys a strong support from among senior leaders in the Sangh fountainhead.
He was the first general secretary of BJP in Ahmedabad and was elevated as the party’s organizing secretary in 1992 after its victory in elections to Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.
When BJP formed its first government in Gujarat in 1996 he emerged a key aide of chief minister Keshubhai Patel.
BJP stalwart Shankersinh Vaghela’s defection to Congress following a rift with Mr. Patel precipitated a political crisis, forcing mid-term elections in 1998.
BJP won the mid-term elections but Mr. Modi was shifted out of Gujarat for falling out with Mr. Patel. Mr. Modi came to New Delhi to take charge as a general secretary of BJP and subsequently got elevated as the party’s national organizing secretary.
Mr. Patel’s government had become unpopular in 2001 for alleged mishandling of the reconstruction work in the Gujarat earthquake of 2000. Mr. Modi, cashed in to return, to replace Patel as the new chief minister.
In December 2002, Mr. Modi won a landslide victory, capturing 127 seats in the 182-member Gujarat assembly -- a record for BJP.
He won a second term in 2007 riding on the back of a national economic boom that immensely benefited Gujarat and lifted its business profile across India and abroad. Mr. Modi came to be known as a man who could deliver on development front.
The BJP stalwart became the first to win a third term as chief minister of Gujarat. The victory, as expected, has since made him a front runner for a prime ministerial nomination in the event of the BJP-led National democratic Alliance wins the national elections scheduled next year.
Born in the Other Backward Class (OBC) middle-class family at Vadnagar, he was the third of six children born to Damodardas Mulchand Modi and his wife Heeraben.
He has been keenly associated with the RSS since long. He was handed the baton for Gujarat in the late 90s by party leader L.K. Advani to spearhead the election campaign in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
After Mr. Modi was accused of doing little to stop the 2002 riots, the U.S. denied him visas and the U.K. cut off all ties with him in subsequent years.
But a decade later, the controversial politician is being reintegrated into the political mainstream. Modi has, however, never expressed any remorse or offered any apologies for the riots.
The British High Commission in Delhi has held its first meeting with him.
Mr. Modi is one of a set of savvy BJP leaders who are as comfortable with Information Technology (IT) as with the hard-line politics of the party.
On the personal front, Mr. Modi reportedly married a woman working as a teacher but his official biography makes no mention of it.