When Narendra Modi came in from the cold
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For many Indians, Narendra Modi is the man of the moment, a possible prime minister. Others see the increasingly powerful BJP strongman, chief minister of western Gujarat state, as a Hindu zealot who did not stop the massacre of Muslims in religious riots a decade ago.
As the 62-year-old moved from village to village on the campaign trail this month, he was greeted by ecstatic crowds, surging forward to catch a glimpse or to touch him as though he were a living god.
Not only expected to win a fourth consecutive term as chief minister in December polls, Modi is also seen as a serious contender to take on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in national elections due in 2014 if he wins convincingly in Gujarat.
Look at how many people are here, Modi said in an interview in his campaign bus, pointing and waving at a crowd of thousands assembled in Alina village. They're even standing on the rooftops in this heat, he said, tapping a photographer's shoulder, indicating to him to take more snaps.
In many parts of India and overseas, however, Modi is remembered for being in office during the Gujarat riots in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 people by official count, mainly Muslims. NGOs and other groups put the death toll around 2,000.
His administration was seen as culpable, and for years Modi was a political pariah, vilified at home and shunned by the West.
His slow rehabilitation has been thanks in large part to projecting the administrative efficiency that the rest of India seems to lack. Gujarat is an investor favourite, attracting global firms such as Ford Motor Co, while Modi has benefited from a concerted image makeover.
In a sign of his growing clout, the British ambassador to India went to Gujarat to visit Modi last week. It was a policy turnaround on London's part, and a major boost in Modi's quest to be accepted as a mainstream political leader.