‘Humbled’ Modi suffers defeats ahead of 2019 India polls

NEW DELHI, India's ruling party suffered stinging election defeats in at least two stronghold states, results showed Tuesday, in a big blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi before national polls in 2019.

The votes held earlier this month and in November were seen as a dress

rehearsal for next year when Modi will likely go headtohead with a

emboldened Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party for a second term.

We accept the people's mandate with humility, Modi said late Tuesday on

Twitter.

I thank the people of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan for

giving us the opportunity to serve these states. The BJP Governments in these

states worked tirelessly for the welfare of the people.

We defeated the BJP today, we will defeat them in 2019 too, Indian media

quoted Gandhi as saying. Mr Modi sold a vision to the country five years

ago. India had the patience to give them five years. But they have failed.

In both the central state of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan in the west, the

chief ministers from Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) conceded defeat,

while in Madhya Pradesh the outcome was on a knifeedge.

In Chhattisgarh, ruled by the BJP for 15 years, initial results showed the

BJP winning just 16 seats, down from 49 in the outgoing parliament, trailing

Congress on 68 in the 90seat state parliament.

Congress also trounced the BJP in Rajasthan, governed since 2013 by the

BJP's Vasundhara Raje, an unpopular local princess, winning 99 seats ahead of

the BJP on 73 89 fewer than in the last election.

Television footage showed jubilant Congress workers bursting firecrackers

and dancing at regional party offices in both states.

In neighbouring Madhya Pradesh the BJP also suffered from voter fatigue

after 15 years in office, with Congress set to be two seats short of a

majority and five ahead of the BJP.

In two other smaller states also releasing results Tuesday, Telangana in

the south and remote Mizoram in the northeast, regional parties looked to be

leading.

Congress's fivetime Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla was routed by the

regional Mizo National Front, a BJP ally. In Telangana the ruling Telangana

Rashtra Samithi won handsomely at the expense of Congress.

Cow Belt

But it was Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh that mattered most

for the Hindu nationalist BJP, which swept to power nationally under Modi in

2014.

They form part of the Hindi Belt or Cow Belt region of around 475

million people more than the United States, Canada and Mexico combined

where the rightwing BJP has its core support base.

Before the recent five elections, the BJP ruled 19 out of 29 Indian states

either outright or in alliance with local parties. Congress rules just two

states, including one in partnership.

But the latest results are a blow to the image of Modi as an invincible

votewinner, and puts the 68yearold on the back foot months before he seeks

a second term in office.

It also strengthen 48yearold Gandhi scion of the GandhiNehru dynasty

with Congress having lost more than a dozen states to the BJP since Modi

took office in 2014.

The results could also help his party cobble together a grand alliance of

smaller parties to take on the BJP next year, with Gandhi at its head.

The message (from voters) is very clear. (Modi) needs to address the main

issues of employment, corruption, and damage to economic structures, Gandhi

said on Tuesday.

Analysts have linked the BJP's apparent dwindling support to growing rural

distress and unemployment.

Nearly 55 percent of India's 1.25billion population is directly or

indirectly dependent on agriculture, and farmers form an important voting

bloc for parties.

The verdict is the cumulative result of the issues faced by people in

these states, Gurpreet Mahajan, a political scientist at Delhi's Jawaharlal

Nehru University told AFP.

Victory and defeat are an integral part of life, Modi said in a second

tweet.

Today's results will further our resolve to serve people and work even

harder for the development of India.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)