By Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center
Special to Foreign Policy
On Feb. 13, U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell met Narendra Modi for the first time, ending the U.S. policy of shunning the popular chief minister of Gujarat, five months after he announced his candidacy for prime minister. Because of allegations of complicity in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, Washington denied Modi a visa in 2005, and until February had refrained from engaging with him. But it’s not just Washington that’s warmed to Modi. The Indian public, by a margin of more than three-to-one, would prefer Modi’s right-of-center, Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rather than the ruling left-of-center Indian National Congress party to lead the next Indian government, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Strikingly, the 63-year-old Modi is far more popular than the 43-year-old putative Congress party prime ministerial candidate Rahul Gandhi.