PM Endures Heavy Poll Defeat on Eve of UK Visit

Published: 09th November 2015 08:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th November 2015 08:55 AM   |  A+A-

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Addressing a cheering Indian community at the SAP Centre, Modi said he hoped the UN would come to a decision on how to define terrorism. | (File/AP)

LONDON: Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, suffered a heavy defeat yesterday (Sunday) in an election in the important northern state of Bihar, in a blow to his standing ahead of a high-profile visit to Britain this week.

His Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) endured a crushing defeat in India's third most-populous state, after a controversial campaign headed by the prime minister.

Mr Modi made repeated visits to the state - which with a population of 110?million would be the world's 12th-largest nation, if independent - as the BJP waged a polarising electoral battle on caste and religious lines.

The vote was seen as a referendum on Mr Modi's popularity after 18 months in office as he campaigned hard for a victory that would have helped him pass a stalled national economic reform programme.

The defeat will embolden his opposition and dampen the mood as he heads to London for a visit that includes a sold-out rally at Wembley stadium, lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace and an overnight stay at Chequers hosted by David Cameron.

Mr Modi swept to power in a landslide victory last May on a promise to turn the economy around, but this was his second successive defeat in a major provincial election.

It came as scores of leading Indian writers, artists, filmmakers and scientists returned national awards in protest at a "culture of intolerance" under Mr Modi's government following attacks on minorities.

An anti-Modi "grand alliance" of regional parties and the national Congress party was heading for an overwhelming majority in Bihar.

The BJP has a comfortable majority in the lower house of parliament but is in a minority in the upper chamber, where seats are allocated according to a party's strength in the states. That has enabled the opposition to block key reforms including the biggest overhaul of taxes since independence in 1947.

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