Modi’s Hindu nationalist party loses India’s Karnataka state: NPR

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Opposition Congress party supporters celebrate an early lead in Karnataka state elections in Bengaluru, India, on Saturday.

Aijaz Rahi/AP

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Aijaz Rahi/AP

Opposition Congress party supporters celebrate an early lead in Karnataka state elections in Bengaluru, India, on Saturday.

Aijaz Rahi/AP

NEW DELHI – India’s main opposition party wrested control of the crucial southern state of Karnataka from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, according to a near-complete vote tally on Saturday that boosted its expectations ahead of next year’s national elections. a year

The election results are expected to give a boost to the largely divided opposition which is tasked with forming a united front to challenge Modi in next year’s general election where he will try to extend his prime ministership for a third consecutive term. They will also help the prospects of the Congress party, which was led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the last two national elections and is trying to regain political prominence across the country.

The loss in Karnataka means that Modi’s party, which was banking on its popularity, has lost the only southern state it has ever controlled and where the Hindu nationalist politics has received a somewhat slower reception than the rest of the country. Over the past few weeks, Modi has been campaigning aggressively in Karnataka, home to 65 million people, and has crisscrossed the state with massive roadshows.

With counting of votes continuing, the Election Commission of India said the Congress had crossed the majority of 113 in the state assembly by winning 123 seats and leading in 12 other constituencies. Modi’s party won or was leading in 64 seats. Another regional party, the Janata Dal (Secular), won 20 seats.

Karnataka, one of India’s wealthiest states, voted on Wednesday and full results are expected later on Saturday.

Karnataka is the second state party that Modi has lost to the Congress in the last six months. In December, the Congress defeated the BJP in northern Himachal Pradesh, a small state in the Himalayas.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh attributed the party’s victory to fighting the election campaign on local issues of “livelihood and food security, price rise, farmers’ distress, electricity supply, unemployment and corruption.”

“The PM introduced division and tried to polarise. The vote in Karnataka is for an engine in Bengaluru that will link economic growth with social harmony,” Ramesh wrote on Twitter.

Bengaluru, the state capital, is India’s information technology hub and a sought-after workplace for young professionals.

“The markets of hate have been closed and the shops of love have opened,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi told reporters at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi, where his supporters and party members cheered. ‘firemen burst and dance to the beat of the drums.

In the past two years, Modi’s party has been trying to maximize gains in Karnataka, where general polarization between majority Hindus and minority Muslims has deepened after leaders and BJP supporters to ban girls from wearing the scarf as part of their school uniform. According to the 2011 census, the most recent in India, 84% of the people of Karnataka were Hindu, nearly 13% Muslim and less than 2% Christian.

Initially, Modi’s party promised to spur development and welcomed voters with social welfare measures. However, before the polls began, he swung towards Hindu nationalism, his usual playbook campaign, and accused the Congress of disregarding Hindu values ​​and attacking minorities. -groups, especially Muslims. He also stopped the reservation of 4% in job and education quotas for Muslims and distributed them to two Hindu caste groups.

The Congress built its campaign by targeting Modi’s party on rising inflation, allegations of corruption and poor infrastructure development in the state, while promising electricity subsidies, allowances for poor families, and financial aid for graduates without work

The polls were also seen as another face-off between Modi and Gandhi, the leader of the dynastic Congress party who was convicted of making defamatory comments about the prime minister’s name at a 2019 election rally. March and there is a risk that he will lose the ability to run in elections for the next eight years if a court does not reverse the conviction.

Late last year, Gandhi embarked on a 3,500-kilometer (2,185-mile) walking tour of Indian cities, towns and villages to revive the party and win popular support.

The election in Karnataka is the first of five crucial state polls this year. They are seen as an indication of voter sentiment ahead of next year’s national elections.

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