India's Hindu nationalist party suffers defeat at polls

NEW DELHI — India's opposition parties inflicted a humiliating defeat on the governing Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in more than a dozen by-elections for seats in Parliament and state assemblies.

India's Election Commission said Thursday that Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies won only two seats in four by-elections for Parliament and 10 for state assemblies in key states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra. The voting occurred Monday.

The Republic television news channel said the party has lost its majority and now has 271 members in the 543-seat lower house of Parliament. However, it remains dominant due to the help of several allies.

The outcome could put pressure on Modi as national elections approach early next year. He is expected to seek a second, five-year term.

G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, a BJP spokesman, said the party might not have done well in the by-elections, but Modi would post a big win in the national elections on the basis of his clean image and emphasis on development.

Jayant Chaudhary, a regional leader belonging to opposition Rashtriya Lok Dal, or National People's Party, said the BJP's attempt to polarize the majority Hindu support in its favor has been rejected by the people.

The Congress and other parties joined forces and made it a direct fight with the BJP in the by-elections by putting up joint candidates to avoid splitting votes.

Minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, say Hindu hardliners have committed increasing acts of violence against them since Modi came to power.

Hindus comprise more than 80 percent of India's 1.3 billion people, Muslims nearly 14 percent and Christians 2 percent.

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