Editorially commenting on Gujarat Chief Minister "Narendra Modi's Rise in India," influential New York Times said "His rise to power is deeply troubling to many Indians, especially the country's 138 million Muslims and its many other minorities."
"They worry he would exacerbate sectarian tensions that have subsided somewhat in the last decade," it said noting that in 2002, rioters "savagely killed nearly 1,000 people, most of whom were part of the Muslim minority" in Gujarat.
"India is a country with multiple religions, more than a dozen major languages and numerous ethnic groups and tribes," the Times said. "Mr. Modi cannot hope to lead it effectively if he inspires fear and antipathy among many of its people."
Modi has been denied a US visa since 2005 for his alleged role or inaction during the 2002 riots.
Supporters of Modi, the Times noted "argue that an investigation commissioned by India's Supreme Court cleared him of wrongdoing in the riots."
"And they insist that Mr. Modi, who is widely admired by middle-class Indians for making Gujarat one of India's fastest-growing states, can revive the economy."
But "Modi's strident Hindu nationalism has fuelled public outrage," the daily said recalling his "incendiary response" to a question from a British news agency whether he regretted the killings in 2002.
"Modi has shown no ability to work with opposition parties or tolerate dissent," the Times said.
"His economic record in Gujarat is not entirely admirable, either," it said noting, "Muslims in Gujarat, for instance, are much more likely to be poor than Muslims in India as a whole, even though the state has a lower poverty rate than the country."