India’s ruling party set to lose key state

NEW DELHI, India's ruling party looked set to lose power in at least one of three traditional stronghold states releasing

election results Tuesday, in a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of

national polls in 2019.

Early election results in the central state of Chhattisgarh indicated the

main opposition Congress party of Rahul Gandhi would win 59 seats compared to

just 11 for Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Hindu nationalist BJP has ruled Chhattisgarh for the past 15 years.

The race looked closer in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, two other

traditional strongholds of Modi's BJP that were also counting votes following

elections in the states this month and last.

In central Madhya Pradesh, home to 73 million people, early results put the

BJP neckandneck with Congress, as observers said it was too early to call

the result either way.

Similarly in the western desert state of Rajasthan ruled by the BJP's

Vasundhara Raje, a maharani or princess Modi's party was predicted to win

74 seats compared to 97 for Congress.

Television footage showed Congress workers bursting firecrackers and

dancing at regional party offices in both states.

Tuesday's results are being seen as a referendum on 68yearold Modi, who

will be seeking a second term in the office in national elections due by May


Defeats in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan would dent his

invincible image and put the party on the back foot.

It would also strengthen 48yearold Gandhi scion of the GandhiNehru

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

since Modi became prime minister in 2014.

The BJP currently rules 19 out of 29 Indian states either outright or in

alliance with local parties. Congress rules just two states, including one in

alliance with a regional partner.

Political commentators have linked the BJP's apparent dwindling support to

growing rural distress and unemployment rates in the country.

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

indirectly dependent on agriculture, and farmers form an important voting

bloc for parties.

In two other states also releasing results Tuesday, Telangana in the south

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

Gandhi's Congress is leading efforts to stitch a larger alliance of

regional parties to take on the BJP next year, convening a meeting to this

effect on Monday in Delhi.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)