India’s Modi heads for landslide, bolsters PM prospects

Updated 20 December 2012
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India’s Modi heads for landslide, bolsters PM prospects

AHMEDABAD, India: The controversial Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi headed for a landslide election win in the Indian state of Gujarat on Thursday, firming up his chances of running for prime minister in 2014.
Modi, a charismatic but divisive figure, was set to be re-elected as chief minister of Gujarat, sealing his status as the most high-profile leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of national polls in early 2014.
Supporters of the BJP, which is the main opposition party in the national parliament, chanted and waved flags in delight as official counting put the party ahead in 118 seats with the rival Congress party leading in just 59.
While the victory was expected, Modi’s popularity on the national stage remains uncertain with his reputation tarnished by allegations over links to deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in his home state in 2002.
Gujarat, which has a population of 60 million people, is one of India’s fastest-growing and most pro-business states but it was badly scarred by the riots in which 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
“Modi has proven that he has the ability to showcase himself as a prime ministerial candidate,” Sebastian Morris, an economics professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s main city, told AFP.
“Congress will have to work hard to check his increasing clout.”
Though he has never openly declared his ambition to be prime minister, Modi is seen as angling to lead the BJP into the 2014 national elections — with the ruling Congress party weakened by slowing growth and corruption scandals.
But many in the BJP itself are wary of Modi, fearing that he remains a hate figure for Muslims and secularists following the 2002 riots, some of the worst unrest in post-independence India.
Modi, who has been chief minister since 2001 and is seeking a fourth term, is blamed by some rights groups for turning a blind eye as mobs went on an orgy of violence with victims set alight or hacked to death in the streets.
“Big success in one state does not mean that the party is ready to put Modi center stage,” Pralay Kanungo, of the Center for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, told AFP.
“The big challenge for him is appease his party and potential allies. He will have to fine-tune his political skills to be the BJP candidate in 2014.”
Modi campaigned in the state polls on a platform of economic expansion and investment, gathering votes from a broad range of farmers, small businesses and young people attracted by his strong personal style, analysts said.
Modi, who denies any wrongdoing over the 2002 unrest but is still denied a US visa since the attacks, avoided Hindu nationalist themes on the campaign trail.
Congress received some good news in the Himachal Pradesh state which also went to polls, where it was forecast to throw out the BJP.


86 people killed in central Nigeria violence: police

Updated 17 min 55 sec ago
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86 people killed in central Nigeria violence: police

  • Analysts believe it could become Nigeria’s biggest security concern, eclipsing Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency that has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009
  • The violence — fueled by ethnic, religious and political allegiances — has killed thousands over several decades

JOS, Nigeria: Eighty-six people have been killed in an attack by suspected nomadic herders against farming communities in restive central Nigeria, police said on Sunday.
The discovery in the Barikin Ladi area of Plateau state came after days of violence apparently sparked by an attack by ethnic Berom farmers on Fulani herders on Thursday.
State police commissioner Undie Adie said a search of Berom villages in the area following clashes on Saturday found “86 persons altogether were killed.”
Adie told reporters six people were also injured and 50 houses razed. Bodies of those who died have been released to their families, he added.
The deaths are the latest in a long-running battle for land and resources that is putting President Muhammadu Buhari under pressure as elections approach next year.
The violence — fueled by ethnic, religious and political allegiances — has killed thousands over several decades.
Analysts believe it could become Nigeria’s biggest security concern, eclipsing Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency that has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009.
The Plateau state government said it had imposed restrictions on movements in the Riyom, Barikin Ladi and Jos South areas “to avert a breakdown of law and order.”
“The curfew takes effect immediately... and movement is restricted from 6:00 p.m. (1700 GMT) to 6:00 am, except (for) those on essential duties,” said spokesman Rufus Bature.
On Sunday, ethnic Berom youths set up barricades on the Jos-Abuja highway and attacked motorists who looked “Fulani and Muslim,” according to those who escaped the violence.
Plateau state police spokesman Tyopev Terna and Major Adam Umar, from the military taskforce in the state capital, Jos, confirmed the blockade and vandalism to several cars.
There were no official reports of deaths but Baba Bala, who escaped the violence on the road, said at least six people were killed.
“I was lucky the convoy of the (Plateau) state government was passing through the scene of the attack shortly after I ran into the attackers,” he said.
“I escaped with smashed windscreens and dents on my car. I saw six dead bodies and several damaged cars.”