India's opposition leader pleads with voters

AP News
Posted: Jan 19, 2014 7:13 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's main opposition party Sunday outlined its strategy for the upcoming general elections with a vow to wrest control from the scandal-plagued Congress Party.

Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi promised to transform the country if elected in the polls that are scheduled to be held later this year.

Modi told thousands of party supporters gathered in the Indian capital that his priorities include good governance, job creation and rooting out corruption.

Modi called the past decade under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as India's darkest and urged that he be given a chance to lead the country.

"The last ten years have seen the worst forms of corruption take root in this country. I am promising zero tolerance against corruption. Give me a chance to take this country to greater heights," he told party workers who cheered and applauded.

In the past year, Singh's government has been hit by a slew of corruption scandals, adding to public anger over its failure to push through much-needed economic reforms to revive a slowing economy.

On Friday, the Congress announced that Rahul Gandhi, heir to India's Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, would lead the party's campaign for the elections but refrained from naming him as the party's prime ministerial candidate.

Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat for the past 11 years, held up his state as an example of effective governance and development. He is credited with turning his western state into an industrial haven.

But Modi, a Hindu nationalist, is widely seen as a divisive figure and critics have often questioned whether he can be a truly secular leader in a country with many cultures.

Modi is accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in 2002 which left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead. While he was never charged with a crime, Modi's critics say he did little to stop the three months of rioting.

Modi has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the violence, but has never expressed remorse or offered an apology.