India’s Modi concedes defeat in key state elections
NEW DELHI — India’s ruling party lost power in three key states on Tuesday, dealing Prime Minister Narendra Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014 and boosting the opposition ahead of national polls next year.
The results in the rural heartland states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh could force the federal government run by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to raise spending in the countryside, where more than two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people live.
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 on Tuesday to the results, Modi said 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 results came as a shot in the arm for Rahul Gandhi, president of the left-of-center 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.
Congress has ruled India for most of its post-independence era after 1947 but was decimated by Modi’s BJP in national polls in 2014. Since then, it had struggled to make major inroads, even in state polls.
On Tuesday, celebrations erupted outside the Congress party headquarters in New Delhi, with supporters dancing, setting off firecrackers and brandishing posters praising Gandhi.