AFP – Controversial Indian politician Narendra Modi, tipped as the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 general election, was elevated to a key post in his party on Sunday.

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appointed Modi as a member of the parliamentary board, a key decision-making body in the Hindu nationalist party which has been plagued by internal squabbles.

“Narendra Modi is a versatile leader and we are happy that he has been chosen to play a key role in the upcoming elections,” said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP vice president.

“Modi is very popular, people across the country admire his leadership skills.”

Last year Modi secured a fourth successive term as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat. Since then he has been widely seen as pushing to lead the party into the national polls.

But the 62-year-old remains a highly divisive figure nationally after being at the helm in Gujarat during bloody religious riots in 2002.

Some 2,000 people — mainly Muslims — were killed during the month-long unrest, according to rights groups.

One of Modi’s former ministers was jailed for life for instigating the killings but several investigations have cleared Modi of personal responsibility.

Political analysts said Modi’s elevation Sunday was a sign that he has won the support of his party and various Hindu organisations to lead the charge against the Congress-led ruling coalition in the general election.

The embattled Congress and the BJP are poised to go head-to-head in the polls but have yet to name their candidates for premier.

Observers have been predicting a showdown between Modi and Rahul Gandhi, the 42-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

Gandhi — whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather have all served as prime minister — is widely expected to lead Congress into the polls after being elevated to the post of party vice-president earlier this year.