Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conceded defeat on Tuesday for his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in key state elections held ahead of national polls next year.
“We accept the people’s mandate with humility. 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,” Modi said on Twitter.
Initial results Tuesday from elections earlier this month and in November showed the BJP losing power in the central state of Chhattisgarh and in Rajasthan in the west.
The chief ministers from both states, both from Modi’s BJP, conceded defeat, while in Madhya Pradesh the outcome was on a knife-edge.
They form part of the “Hindi Belt” or “Cow Belt” region of around 475 million people -- more than the United States, Canada and Mexico combined -- where the right-wing BJP has its core support base.
The elections were seen as a dry run for national polls due to be held before May 2019 when Modi will run for a second term in office.
His likely challenger will be Rahul Gandhi from the Congress party, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, whose position was bolstered by Tuesday’s results.
“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.”