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Modi becomes Gujarat’s longest serving chief minister

By Ashish Mehta


Gandhinagar : Narendra Modi, who began ruling Gujarat promising to "play as in one-day cricket", has gone on to become the state's longest serving chief minister.

Modi completed 2,063 days in office June 1, surpassing the state's third chief minister Hitendra Desai's record of 2,062 uninterrupted days in the early 1970s.

Modi, who assumed office Oct 7, 2001, is the 14th chief minister of Gujarat.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh will honour Modi for his achievemen at a felicitation function in Ahmedabad Sunday.

Party spokesperson Vijay Rupani said BJP leaders like L.K. Advani and Arun Jaitely apart from the state leaders will be present on the occasion.

Modi was sent to Gandhinagar by the BJP in place of Keshubhai Patel as the party's fortunes were seen dwindling in elections to local bodies ahead of the 2002 assembly elections.

Credited with crafting the strategy that led to the BJP victory in the state in 1995 as the party's state unit secretary, Modi told reporters after assuming office that he would work as if "playing one-day cricket" to ensure that the party retained power in the 2002 assembly elections.

Under his leadership, the BJP not only retained power but also won the highest number of seats – 127 in the 182-member house.

Although the victory was marred by allegations of his government's biased role in the communal violence earlier that year, Modi earned the epithet of the Hindu rightwing's poster boy.

An official spokesman said Gujarat had achieved economic stability, among many important milestones, during Modi's 68-month rule.

A series of international investors' conferences titled Vibrant Gujarat brought a windfall of agreements promising fresh investments in the state's infrastructure.

Independent bodies as well as the Planning Commission have praised Gujarat for leading India on the path to double-digit growth.

Modi's critics, however, allege that widening communal divide and rising human rights violations are the highlights of his administration.

Even as the party prepares to celebrate Modi's feat, the Gujarat Police have discovered that a Muslim man killed in a staged shootout in 2005 was not a terrorist as it was claimed. The Supreme Court has received two more petitions seeking a probe into similar "encounter" killings.

Gujarat will have fresh elections by December. It remains to be seen if Modi will be able to replicate his 2002 performance.