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India’s newly galvanized opposition strikes back with ‘mandate to save democracy’


At the start of the year, Narendra Modi launched his unofficial election campaign from the steps of a grand Hindu temple. India was about to enter a “divine” era, he said, declaring the beginning of a “new time cycle.”

January’s inauguration of the Ram Mandir, on the site of a destroyed mosque, analysts said, was the latest and most significant step in a years-long project, moving India away from its secular, pluralist founding principles and toward a new future as a Hindu nation.

On Tuesday night, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost its seat in the town where the temple stands.

The loss sent shock waves through a country where a firebrand ideology of Hindu nationalism has – over the last decade of Modi’s leadership – been thrust into to the center of daily life.

But as the election results showed, for many voters, his BJP’s strident ideology could not compensate for far more pressing local issues, including soaring unemployment and rising inflation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at his Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters in New Delhi, India, on June 4.

Related article Indian voters reject Modi’s vision for one-party state in win for competitive democracy

The opposition – which had been all but written off by many pundits and polls – put on a far stronger showing than expected, winning seats in BJP strongholds while denting Modi’s aura of invincibility.

The INDIA alliance, a grouping of dozens of political parties with a breadth of political positions, won 235 out of 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament, denying the BJP its dream of forming a supermajority – and with it a mandate to enact radical change.

The star face of that alliance, Indian National Congress lawmaker Rahul Gandhi,