India’s far-right ruling party lost three major state elections months before national elections in 2019.
India’s ruling party lost power in three key states Tuesday, dealing far-right Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014 resulting in jubilant celebrations by citizens who have opposed the policies of BJP.
The results in the heartland rural states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh could force the federal government run by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to raise spending in the countryside, where more than two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people live.
The BJP previously ruled all three states. These three northern states are important for BJP for spreading their Hindu nationalist ideology.
“I think election 2019 is going to be a fight for Modi,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political commentator, and biographer of the prime minister. “These losses came not just in the Hindi heartland, but in the heart of the Hindi heartland.”
Political analysts said the BJP’s defeat would underscore rural dismay with the government and could help unite the opposition led by the Congress party. Modi is personally popular but has been criticized for failing to deliver jobs for young people and better conditions for farmers.
Reacting late to the results, Modi wrote on Twitter, “Victory and defeat are an integral part of life. Today’s results will further our resolve to serve people and work even harder for the development of India.”
The result boosted opposition candidate Rahul Gandhi, president of the central party Congress, who is trying to forge a broad alliance with regional groups and present Modi with his most serious challenge yet in a general election that must be held by May.
“We are going to provide the states with a vision and a government they can be proud of,” Gandhi told reporters.
“There is a feeling among people that the promises made by the prime minister … have not been fulfilled.”
Regional parties were leading in two smaller states that also voted, Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.
Congress said it was confident it could form governments in all three big states. The BJP said the state results would not necessarily dictate what happens in next year’s general election.
Nevertheless, the anti-BJP civil society is seeing this loss of the far-right BJP as a welcome change while flooding social media with anti-Modi memes.