India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party has conceded defeat in the key state election in Bihar, in what is being seen as a major blow for the prime minister, Narendra Modi.
Nitish Kumar, the incoming chief minister, said on Twitter on Sunday that Modi had called him and congratulated him on his party’s victory in Bihar, one of India’s largest and poorest states.
“Had a telephone conversation with Shri @NitishKumar & congratulated him on the victory,” Modi said on Twitter of Kumar.
Just received a phone call from the Prime Minister congratulating me.
— Nitish Kumar (@NitishKumar) November 8, 2015
The election for the state assembly was seen as a critical test of Modi’s popularity after he swept to power in national polls in May 2014, promising ambitious reforms to revive the faltering economy.
The BJP needed a win after suffering a defeat in February elections for the Delhi state assembly to a fledgling anti-corruption party.
Assembly elections are important not only because state leaders wield significant power, but because parties gain seats in India’s upper house of parliament, where the BJP lacks a majority.
The campaign had been dogged by religious tensions after several Muslims were killed in separate incidents by Hindu mobs who suspected them of stealing or eating cows.