Defeat for Modi’s Party in South India Heartens His Rivals

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party on Saturday lost its sole state government in India’s relatively prosperous south, results from elections in Karnataka showed, in a bid to bolster the opposition that is meeting difficulties ahead of next year’s general election.

India’s parliament, which has ruled India for most of its time since independence before being marginalized by the rise of Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, won a majority in the vote. local council elections in Karnataka.

Home to more than 65 million people and India’s cash-rich tech hub, Karnataka is the only southern state where Modi’s Hindu nationalist party has succeeded in leading a government, the party’s ideological push is less accepted in that region than in his state. Modi’s stronghold in northern India.

With the majority of votes counted, the Congress party is expected to win at least 135 of the 224 seats in parliament, which would make it easier for the party to form a government.

In the final stages of his campaign for the state, which has a high turnout of about 73%, Mr. Modi threw himself into the race. He held about 20 rallies there, including some in which supporters threw flower petals at him as he drove past a convertible.

Making the election in favor of Mr. Modi famously is a last-ditch effort, after the party’s usual attempts to polarize voters along the lines of religion – such as a ban on Muslim schoolgirls wearing headscarves as a symbol. part of the school uniform – apparently unsuccessful. are diverting voters’ attention from allegations of local corruption among BJP members.

“We have not been able to make a mark despite a lot of efforts by everyone, even from our prime minister,” said Basavaraj Bommai, the state’s BJP premier.

While victory in Karnataka could be a blow to the national opposition, which is trying to recover from being defeated by Mr. Modi’s party in the 2019 and 2014 national elections, analysts say warned that Congress will still face a formidable opponent in the 2019 presidential election. .Modi as he seeks a third term early next year.

The incumbent has rarely won in Karnataka, where control has largely alternated between Congress and the BJP in recent years. In local elections, caste rivalry and immediate governance problems, such as corruption, emerge. Local preferences do not necessarily translate into votes for Parliament in India’s parliamentary system, which decides who is prime minister.

Mr. Modi’s popularity remains strong, with many voters in Karnataka – who voted against his local leaders because of soaring prices, corruption and polarizing politics – still expressing their disapproval. love for him personally.

At the national level, Congress has struggled to match Mr. Modi’s call.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader most recognized by Congress and often touted as a candidate, built momentum by undertaking a long trek across India, covering 2,200 miles in four months.

But just when it looks like he’s detracting from Mr. Modi’s title to him named after dynastand presenting himself as a credible leader surrounded by a coalition of skeptical regional allies who could unite to challenge Mr. Modi, the BJP has him mired in a legal challenge. physical.

An old and questionable defamation case has been revived in recent months, and a judge in Gujarat, Modi’s home state, has given Gandhi the maximum sentence. type him from his parliamentary seat. Mr. Gandhi’s party has called the incident a political conspiracy akin to match-fixing, and has fought to keep him out of jail.

Aarti Jerath, a political commentator in New Delhi, said that although voting patterns in local elections do not immediately translate into favor in national elections, the Congress party will take lessons from victory in Karnataka – empower local leaders and focus the campaign on the bread and butter issue rather than turning it into a contest of support for the formidable Mr. Modi .

“This is a huge morale boost for Congress — winning a major state for the first time after a string of defeats,” she said.


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