Jan 12, 2013, 09.28 PM | Source: Reuters

Modi draws business praise, avoids talk of higher office

NARENDRA-MODI-VIBRANT-GUJARAT:Modi draws business praise, avoids talk of higher office

By Prashant Mehra

GANDHINAGAR (Reuters) - Fresh off his re-election as chief minister of Gujarat and amid expectations he could contend to be the next prime minister, Narendra Modi avoided talk of a bigger political future during a state investment event.

Still, Modi, one of India's most popular and divisive politicians, was the star of his "Vibrant Gujarat Summit," which featured a parade of corporate heavyweights as well as foreign officials who extolled the business-friendly state and Modi's leadership even as they mostly kept clear of politics.

"In Gujarat, we see a culture of implementation, reflecting the qualities of the chief minister," Cyrus Mistry, who recently succeeded Ratan Tata as head of the Tata Group, India's biggest business house, said from a stage he shared with Modi.

In one of Modi's biggest wins, in 2008 he convinced Tata Motors to build a factory in the state for its low-cost Nano after its plans to make the car in West Bengal were disrupted by farmers.

Last month, Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 115 of the state assembly's 182 seats against 61 for the Congress party, which heads a national government that has been beset by corruption scandals and presided over an economy on track this fiscal year for its slowest growth in a decade.

Modi appeared to downplay ambitions for higher office, making a point of inviting delegates to the next edition of the event in 2015. "When I gave a similar invitation in 2011, the media had mocked me saying I was yet to be re-elected and was already issuing invitations. This time, there is no such problem," he said in his closing remarks, delivered in Hindi.

Modi cancelled a press conference planned for Saturday due to "urgent work," according to a text message from organisers.


Gujarat, with a long tradition of entrepreneurship, has been a magnet for industrial investment thanks in part to what is widely regarded as efficient state government, which stands in contrast to the red tape and unpredictability elsewhere in India that frustrate businesses and investors.

While Modi, 62, wins praise for that, critics have accused him of not doing enough to stop - or of even quietly encouraging - religious riots in 2002 that saw as many as 2,000 killed, most of them Muslims, which makes him a controversial choice for the BJP despite his star power.

India is due to hold national elections by 2014.

One of the few major executives in attendance to speak openly of Modi as candidate for prime minister was Sanjay Lalbhai, chairman of Arvind Ltd


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