New Delhi: Narendra Modi, whose hat-trick in Gujarat could possibly pitchfork him as a prime ministerial candidate of BJP in 2014, has always remained a leader with a difference, a personality you may love or hate but cannot ignore. The 62-year-old former RSS pracharak is no ordinary politician and has carved out a name for development in a state that has always nurtured talent and entrepreneurial skills.
But Modi has been a controversial figure and is yet to live down the stigma over the post-Godhra violence that claimed lives of over 1,000 Muslims in March 2002 months after he had taken over as Chief Minister replacing Keshubhai Patel. In a state considered the Sangh Parivar's Hindutva laboratory, the Chief Minister is accused of polarising the state on communal lines. In fact, he is the most targeted leader in the current times with his opponents ready to go to any extent to hurl invectives on him.
However, he has admirers in equal measure in his party and outside. Modi made feeble attempts to woo the Muslims but the controversial BJP strongman has always projected an air of unconcern.
His critics say that Modi will always have to carry the taint of 2002 Gujarat riots after the Godhra train carnage for which he has consciously avoided expressing regret or offering any apology. In one recent interview, he had, however, said if he was guilty of involvement, he can be hanged. Modi's admirers, on the other hand, hail him as "Hindu Hriday Samrat".
The situation is so polarised in Gujarat that Sonia Gandhi's remarks accusing Modi of being a "merchant of death" had created a huge controversy in the 2007 Assembly Polls. The description is said to have cost the Congress dear that the party shied away from raking up the issue of post-Godhra riots altogether in the current elections.
After 11 long years as Gujarat Chief Minister and his third consecutive success at the hustings, Modi may have propelled himself as a strong contender as party's candidate for Prime Minister's post in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
"No need of looking behind ...FORWARD!...We want infinite energy, infinite courage, infinite patience..." Modi said on the microblogging site Twitter in the wake of trends that he was set to create a hat-trick. It was interpreted in some circles as a subtle comment indicating his intention to be in the Prime Ministerial race.
In fact, he has created history by emerging as the first BJP Chief Minister to have third successive win at a time when the party is in dire need of a strong leader to get back to power at the Centre.
The election was different for Modi as it was for the first time that elderly Keshubhai, whom he had replaced as the Chief Minister in 2001, parted ways with the BJP and floated his Gujarat Parivartan Party to rid the state of an 'emergency like situation'.
Given the bitter parting of ways, the 2012 polls was the litmus test for Modi, who had consciously tried to build bridges with the minorities by holding Sadbhavana fasts all over the state. At the same time, he did not give ticket to a single Muslim in a bid not to ruffle the feathers in the Hindutva camp.
Modi also had reached out to his core constituency by organising state-wide yatra by projecting Swamy Vivekananda as his ideal on his 150th birth anniversary. In the wake of the 2002 riots, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had reminded him of his "raj dharma", but LK Advani and the late Pramod Mahajan helped Modi to survive as the Chief Minister.
After that there was no looking back for the RSS pracharak who had moved to the BJP long back, first as organising secretary of the party in Gujarat and later an office-bearer at his headquarter in Delhi.