Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s BJP party received a serious setback in recent by-elections, results showed on Thursday.
With Thursday’s results, the ruling BJP party lost its simple majority in the lower house of the Indian parliament, falling below 272 seats.
A win would have bolstered Modi’s chances of a second term, with less than a year to go until the 2019 general elections.
“It’s a big setback for BJP,” Vinod Sharma, political editor at the Hindustan Times told Al Jazeera.
The opposition is energised by an unlikely win in a vote held on Monday for a handful of parliamentary and assembly seats in the Hindi heartland and across the country.
According to the Election Commission of India, Modi’s BJP won 1 out of 4 by-elections for the parliament and 1 out of 10 for state assemblies.
Regional party Rashtriya Lok Dal allied with opposition parties in the state of Uttar Pradesh – the Samajwadi Party, and Congress – to win a hotly contested parliament seat in Kairana.
Analysts say the victory in Kairana and Noorpur, in the country’s most politically important state Uttar Pradesh, demonstrates the opposition strategy to bring together Muslims, Dalits, Jats and some lower castes has paid off.
“Results show there is now a clear social alliance to back the emerging political alliance,” Sharma said. “This should encourage the opposition enormously.
“Today’s results hint at the possibility of a hung parliament in 2019.”
Tough battle ahead
Delhi Chief Minister and chief of the Aam Admi (Common Man) Party, Arvind Kejriwal said Thursday’s results showed the people are “very angry” with the Modi government.
But the ruling party said the significance of the results were “grossly exaggerated”.
“A loss is a loss and nobody wants to lose, but the opposition unity is bereft of credibility,” Sudhanshu Mittal, BJP national spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.
“The arithmetic of the opposition does create problems, but it can’t trump Modi’s chemistry.”
Opinion polls suggest Modi has been able to maintain his popularity amid the turmoil despite the implementation of a nationwide sales tax, and a ban on high-value banknotes in 2016.
Nearly nine out of 10 Indians hold a favourable opinion of the prime minister, according to a Pew poll. His party rules 21 out of 29 Indian states.
The BJP, however, has a tough battle ahead in three state elections slated for this year, as ties with some allies have been strained in recent months.
In the recent Karnataka state elections, the opposition Congress Party forged a post-poll alliance with a regional party to prevent BJP from storming to power.