The myth of India’s incumbent prime minister Narendra Modi‘s absolute political strength was seriously damaged recently when his party lost the assembly election in three states. Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh collectively comprise of 65 seats in the parliament. The BJP previously held 62 out of those 65 seats. The recent defeat has not only left the ruling BJP humiliated, it has also put question marks on Modi’s re-election in the upcoming national elections. BJP’s main rival, the Congress, which seemed to have been tired and defeated only a few days ago, is suddenly back in business. Its president, Rahul Gandhi managed to stay his course despite continuous derision from right-wing internet trolls, and even personal attacks against himself and his family from the prime minister. Infact, it was Modi’s frequent mocking of Rahul and his Italian-born mother, that backfired allowing Gandhi to snatch three important constituencies from what was once considered the BJP’s stronghold. The current polls mark a turning point in India’s political landscape. The Congress party which, only a few days ago, was reeling under revived Hindu nationalism, has once again emerged as a formidable opponent. On the other hand, the aura of invincibility surrounding Modi-Shah duo has waned significantly. Traditionally, a liberal center-left party, the Congress has headed the Indian central government for a cumulative span of 49 years since independence. However, it suffered a humiliating defeat in 2014 general election managing to win only 44 seats out of 543. The BJP led coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed by Narendra Modi swept the elections and held the reign of the world’s largest democracy. Before becoming prime minister, Narendra Modi had served as chief minister of India’s Gujarat state for more than a decade. During his tenure, Gujarat had shown massive economic growth. Modi, a gifted speaker from humble backgrounds, made all Indians believe that if he was elected as the prime minister, he would pull off the same economic miracle for the entire country. Once elected into office, Narendra Modi wasted no time in shedding off the reformist image that he had so meticulously created for himself, and started indulging in divisive sectarian politics. all over India minorities — especially Muslims — became targets of widespread verbal abuse and, in some cases, physical violence and even murder. Modi could not perform on the fiscal front either. Most of the economic schemes conceived by Narendra Modi failed. The promise of a million jobs every year did not materialize Modi could not perform on the fiscal front either. Most of the economic schemes conceived by Narendra Modi failed. The promise of a million jobs every year did not materialize. In fact, the number of formally employed people actually fell during the past year. There was a 38.4 percent decline in investments within new projects and a 15 percent decline in FDI. Modi’s massive demonetization policy announced and executed in November 2016, failed to achieve its stated objectives and resulted in severe cash shortages for ordinary people. The rush created by the sudden demonetization of 500 and 1,000 Rupee notes, and long queues outside banks for the purpose of changing them, caused dozens of deaths. To top it all off, the general sales tax (GST) regime introduced by the BJP government in July 2017 amid massive fanfare, was also a flop. The policy is not only criticized by Indian economists, but by acclaimed foreign academics as well. Perhaps, in order to compensate for its economic failures, the BJP planned to use the sectarian card in order to garner votes. This is why it made another big mistake: deploying Yogi Adityanath. Adityanath is a radical Hindu leader and currently serves as UP’s chief minister. Modi deployed him in the run-up to the assembly elections in order to seek support from the right-wing pollsters. The firebrand cleric addressed dozens of rallies attacking Muslims and their perceived advocate, the secular Congress party. The tactic backfired. The public rejected this politics of hate propagated and supported by Adityanath and his backers in Delhi. Farmers in India are not too happy with the BJP government. Most of them are facing severe financial crisis because the costs of fertilizers and electricity are rising but there is no simultaneous increase in the price of produce. They blame the government for imposing strict rules and paying inadequately for their own purchases. The five states where elections were held recently represent the rural heartland of India. The disappointing results shown by BJP in these states have indicated towards a political shift that might be happening within the Indian political landscape. However, it can be said that despite these losses, BJP’s urban strongholds are still intact where it commands a loyal following. Modi’s oratory attributes cannot be discounted either. One of the main reasons for Modi’s accession to power was that he presented himself as the person who will not only further the Hindu nationalist agenda, but also protect the values of the Hindu majority. In that perspective, his political base is still intact. Narendra Modi may lose many seats in the upcoming national elections, but it will be too early to say that he will lose most of them. The writer is an Investment Banker and has been writing for several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, December 21st 2018.