NEW DELHI (AP) - Lal Krishna Advani, one of the founding members of India's main opposition party, resigned from all party positions on Monday, a day after the party appointed a controversial Hindu ideologue to lead its campaign in national elections next year.
Advani, the most senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, stepped away to show his opposition to the elevation of Narendra Modi, now likely the party's choice for prime minister if it wins in 2014.
Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat state, is accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in the state in 2002 which left more than 1,000 dead. While he was never charged with a crime, Modi's critics say he did little to stop the three months of rioting.
Modi has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the violence, but has never expressed remorse or offered an apology.
Advani, 85, was India's home minister and deputy prime minister when the BJP was in power in the late 1990s. He has long cherished dreams of becoming prime minister. He announced his resignations in a letter to BJP President Rajnath Singh.
Modi's appointment as head of the BJP's campaign committee was announced at the end of a three-day party meeting on Sunday.
Several top BJP leaders, including Advani, refused to attend the meeting, indicating the deep divisions within the party over Modi's role.
They fear that the party will fare badly in the countrywide elections due to Modi's polarizing image.
Some party leaders fear that with Modi in charge, the BJP could turn off voters and coalition allies, throwing away a prime chance to win control of the government from the scandal-plagued Congress Party.