Prime Minister Narendra Modi has suffered a heavy defeat in the closely-watched Bihar state elections, possibly opening up fresh threats to his ambitious reform program.
On Monday morning, an anti-Modi alliance led by Bihar's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was ahead in 179 seats in the 243-seat regional assembly, an overwhelming majority, tallies compiled by the election commission showed. Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led alliance was ahead in 58 seats where trends were clear.
Modi tweeted that he had called to congratulate Kumar.
The defeat in India's third most-populous state is a major setback for Modi, who has seen the optimism that accompanied his election win 18 months ago slip as crucial economic reforms suffered setbacks and doubts emerged over India's culture of tolerance.
While Modi's ruling BJP enjoys a majority in the lower house of the national parliament, the opposition has a majority in the upper house at present, hampering efforts to get crucial reform bills approved.
Bihar's polls were seen as key because Modi needs to win most state elections over the next three years to gain full control over parliament. This may have been Modi's last chance to win a state election before the spring of 2017. He faces five elections next year, all in regions where his party has failed to make inroads.
Bihar was also important for its sheer size: The state has 104 million inhabitants and only three provinces in India send more members to the upper house.
Earlier this year, the BJP lost local elections in Delhi to the Aam Aadmi Party, which calls itself the party representing the common man.