04/16/2015 11:33 EDT | Updated 07/02/2015 01:59 EDT

Indian PM Narendra Modi still mired in controversy, says expert

Thousands of locals packed the Laxmi Narayan Hindu temple in Surrey to get a glimpse of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi — but in Vancouver, protesters gathered to show their displeasure over his visit to Canada.

Modi has become one of the most polarizing political characters on the world stage since he was elected last year, receiving both rock star status and antagonized receptions throughout his international visits.

"Last year in India there was considerable economic slowdown and disenchantment with the previous government… which was largely seen as dysfunctional," Kanta Murali, political science professor at the University of Toronto, told On the Coast's Stephen Quinn.

"Many have felt that the Indo-Canadian relationship hasn't been leveraged anywhere near enough in economic terms in the past. This is a visit that both sides have practical economics to gain."

But, says Murali, "While Modi promises a great deal of economic change, he comes with a particular brand of politics which is extremely controversial."

Historic win marred by controversy

Modi's win was a historic victory in India, allowing him to lead his Bharatiya Janata Party to the first majority government in India since 1984.

That accomplishment has been hailed as an increasingly difficult task, considering India's population is expected to overtake China as the world's largest.

But Murali points to the events of 2002, when, as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi was accused of initiating and condoning anti-Muslim riots in his province.

A special investigative team of the Indian Supreme Court failed to find evidence to directly charge him with any wrongdoing.

Nevertheless, Murali says, Modi remains mired in considerable controversy about his role in the event.