Journalists smeared me over Gujarat riots: India's Modi

NEW DELHI Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:59am EDT

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), waves to his supporters as he arrives to file nomination papers for the general elections in Vadodara, in the western Indian state of Gujarat April 9, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), waves to his supporters as he arrives to file nomination papers for the general elections in Vadodara, in the western Indian state of Gujarat April 9, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian opposition leader and general election frontrunner Narendra Modi accused the media on Wednesday of smearing him over sectarian rioting in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died.

Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is on track to win India's general election and promote Modi from his current post as chief minister in Gujarat - his home state where the rioting occurred - to become the next prime minister.

Voting in the world's largest democracy is phased over several weeks, beginning on April 7 and ending on May 12. Results are due to be announced on May 16.

"If the media had not made such an effort to malign Modi, Modi would not be as well known as he is," Modi, 63, said in an interview with the ANI television service.

Modi's rise has drawn fresh attention to the riots. Rahul Gandhi of the ruling Congress party has said that, even though a Supreme Court inquiry found that Modi had no case to answer, it did not absolve him of responsibility.

Modi has also faced accusations that he has been reticent over the killings because expressing contrition might alienate the BJP's core Hindu vote in the five-week election. The biggest round of voting will be held on Thursday.

Modi said that his attempts to explain the 2002 events to journalists had proved futile.

"There is no top journalist to whom I have not given an interview. I answered every question from 2002-2007," he said. "Later I saw that this was not an attempt to learn the truth."

He expressed confidence that the BJP would achieve its best ever result in the election, while the Congress party faced its worst ever defeat.

"I have said what I had to say," said Modi. "Now I am in the people's court, and I am waiting to hear its judgment."

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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