Iím your man: Hat-trick Modi to India
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Chief Minister Narendra Modi's BJP government in Gujarat was voted back to power for the third straight term on Thursday, galvanising his supporters to raise the pitch to make him the party's prime ministerial candidate in 2014.
Modi himself suggested that the verdict was his launch pad for a larger, national role, even though the BJP tally of 115 seats was two fewer than in 2007, and some distance from an emphatic sweep predicted by some exit polls on TV.
The results were seen as a clear vote for Modi's "development and inclusive growth" plank. They also seemed to back the cult of personality that was a noticeable feature of the election campaign.
The state rejected a third force, but did not throw out the Congress's 'dream home' promise. It also showed that it did not mind taking along veterans such as Keshubhai Patel. Besides Patel, Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela won, although the party's chief Arjun Modhwadia and its legislature party leader Shaktisinh Gohil, lost. Even BJP state president R C Faldu lost.
While Modi described the victory as a "hat-trick", the Congress bettered its tally to 61, two seats more than in 2007, in a house with a total 182 seats. Political observers said this suggests that the opposition in the new Gujarat assembly could be powered by leaders with a RSS background, with Vaghela possibly leading the Congress and Keshubhai on the same side.
Speaking in Hindi outside the BJP headquarters in Khanpur after the victory, Modi mocked "poll pundits for getting it wrong" and asked people to "forgive him for any mistake that he might have made" as the crowd roared "NM for PM" .
It is the closest Modi has come to apologising for the 2002 communal riots.