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 head-to-head 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 knife-edge.
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 90-seat 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 five-time 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. - APP/AFP