06/10/2013, 00.00
INDIA
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For Indian Jesuit, violence-oriented Narendra Modi is a poor card up the Hindu party's sleeve

by Nirmala Carvalho
Upon the recommendation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Gujarat's chief minister will run the campaign for the 2014 general election. For Fr Cedric Prakash, party leaders want to capitalise on the vote of Hindu fundamentalists, who are Modi supporters. However, the decision has been divisive within BJP ranks. One of the party's founders, LK Advani, has resigned over the issue.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "Narendra Modi is a controversial man, violent and authoritarian, who will destroy his own party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)," said Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, director of the Prashant Centre for human rights, justice and peace, as he commented the appointment of Gujarat's chief minister as the director of the BJP 2014 election campaign, a choice that has divided the ultra-nationalist Hindu party. The BJP's historic leader, LK Advani, resigned today from all offices, in open disagreement with this decision.

The appointment of Gujarat's chief minister was expected, the Jesuit priest said, because "without a constructive political agenda, the BJP had no choice but to resort to its most prominent leader, who is backed by the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS)", one of the most violent Hindu ultranationalist groups active in the country, responsible for several attacks against ethnic and religious minorities across the country.

Modi has been blamed for and investigated in connection with the massacres of 2002 caused by Hindu-Muslim clashes, for which he has never apologised.

The economic reforms he implemented have made Gujarat one of the richest states in the country and earned him re-election to the post of chief minister for three consecutive mandates, although many inside and outside of India continue to blame him for the massacres and for the conditions in which minorities live. The United States for example has denied Modi a visa for years.

Modi's bad reputation, Fr Prakash noted, "still prevents the BJP from appointing him as its official candidate for the post of prime minister. In the long run, this move will bring damage to the party, because Indians know the truth and want something better."

The announcement of the resignation of LK Advani, one of the founders of the BJP, shows how controversial Modi is.

"For some time I have been finding it difficult to reconcile either with the current functioning of the party, or the direction in which it is going," Advani wrote in his letter of resignation.

"Most of our leaders are now concerned just with their personal agendas," he added.

Advani began his political career in the RSS, but over the years has moved to more moderate positions. In 2009 he made a pilgrimage to the Marian shrine in Bandra (Mumbai).

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