Modi loses India Swing State and boosts Gandhi ahead of 2024 vote

Modi loses India Swing State and boosts Gandhi ahead of 2024 vote


(Bloomberg) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has conceded defeat in the southern swing state of Karnataka, a rare victory for Rahul Gandhi’s opposition Congress Party as it looks set to build momentum ahead of next year’s national elections.

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The Congress won 123 seats and led in 13 others, easily enough for a majority in the 224-member assembly, in one of the most significant victories against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party since the prime minister came to power in 2014. The BJP won 56 seats and led in eight others, according to India’s Election Commission.

“Congratulations to the Congress Party for their victory in the Karnataka Assembly polls,” Modi, who campaigned prominently in a state with the IT hub Bengaluru, said in a Twitter post. “My best wishes to them in fulfilling people’s aspirations.”

The elections in Karnataka, the only southern state where Modi’s BJP was in power, were the first of several major state elections that tested the national vote ahead of the 2024 vote. While Congress has been defeated in the last two national polls, high inflation and unemployment are causing dissatisfaction in the country with 1.4 billion inhabitants.

“A Congress victory will be a big morale boost for an opposition that appears weak and fragmented just a year before the general election,” said Shumita Deveshwar, senior director of India research at TS Lombard. “Still, it is a long, arduous road for the New Delhi opposition. The party needs many more victories to be seen as a strong competitor to the BJP at the national level.”

In the Karnataka vote, Modi took on Gandhi, the scion of India’s famous Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who was convicted of making defamatory remarks about the prime minister’s surname in 2019. The verdict led to Gandhi was expelled from parliament earlier this year.

The results indicate that Gandhi’s consistent audience outreach impresses voters. He completed a 2,170-mile trek across the country earlier this year to rally support for the party.

Struggling with high prices and corruption allegations, the BJP counted on Modi’s popularity to stay in power in one of the country’s wealthiest states. Congressional campaign promises include direct cash benefits for women and free electricity.

Karnataka has been a swing state since 1985. Although the BJP has previously won a significant number of seats here, enough to form the government several times, it has never managed to secure a clear majority.

“The loss of the BJP in the state can be attributed to local bread-and-butter issues, unemployment and corruption allegations,” Deveshwar said. “With Prime Minister Modi’s popularity ratings consistently high, the loss of Karnataka will not cause a significant dent in his image.”

–With help from Akshay Chinchalkar and Anto Antony.

(Rearrangements everywhere)

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