NEW DELHI: Indian Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi should be in a strong position to run for prime minister in 2014 after winning state polls but his own party may act to stop him, newspapers said Friday.
Modi, a hardline leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on Thursday recorded a thumping victory in his home state of Gujarat to remain as chief minister, triggering renewed speculation about his national ambitions.
“He seeks national role, but party leadership may balk,” read the front-page of The Hindu, while The Times of India asked: “Gujarat wants Modi, but does he want only Gujarat?”
The BJP – which is the main opposition party in parliament – is scouting around for a vote-winning candidate to take on the ruling Congress-led alliance that has been weakened by slowing economic growth and policy paralysis.
Modi, whose image remains tarnished by deadly riots in Gujarat in 2002, inspires loyalty among young Gujaratis, but BJP leaders fear he is a polarising figure who does not have the broad appeal needed on the national stage.
He strikes a fiercely independent stance in Gujarat, promoting his own pro-business agenda, and has long had strained relations with the BJP hierarchy.
“The BJP, already in unceasing turmoil over the leadership question, will now have to deal with the formidable claimant from Gujarat, who disdains not just the opponent...but also the opposition within,” the Indian Express said.
His supporters had no doubt about his future, celebrating his victory with the chant “Gujarat is only a trailer, Delhi is the real battle”.
Modi has made no direct reference to his plans for the 2014 elections but he delighted cheering crowds by saying that his win was “for all those people across the country who want India to prosper”.
“(The BJP) will be very hard put to ignore Mr Modi's claim, were he to make one, for the top post,” the Hindustan Times said in its editorial. “He has delivered time and again against severe odds.”