India's main opposition party declares Modi as PM-candidate

India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday declared controversial Gajarat state minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, ahead of a general election scheduled to be held in May 2014.

Making the announcement, party president Rajnath Singh said, "Like in past, when we announced our PM candidate prior to general elections, this time we have decided to appoint Narendra Modi as our party's PM candidate in the next parliamentary elections."

Last December, Modi, 62, began his fourth consecutive term as chief minister of the country's western state of Gujarat, a position he has held since October 2001.

The Hindu nationalist is a controversial political figure for his failure, and alleged unwillingness, to prevent the communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

India is currently led by a coalition government headed by 80-year-old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose Congress party has ruled India for most of the six decades since its independence.

It is widely expected to declare Rahul Gandhi, 43, the current Congress vice president and the son of assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, as its candidate for the premiership.

The BJP was in power as part of an alliance of parties from 1998 to 2004 under the premiership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Media reports have suggested that there was a "divide" within the BJP over appointing Modi as the party's candidate for the premiership.