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Jharkhand election results: BJP set to lose majority amid citizenship row

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Early trends show that India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to lose majority in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

The party, along with a regional partner, won the polls in 2014.

The result is crucial because three phases of voting were held amid nationwide protests against the government’s new citizenship law.

More than 20 people have died in 10 days of clashes sparked by the law, which critics see as anti-Muslim.

The BJP and its ally, All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), won 42 seats in 2014 – one more than the number required to form a government.

But the main opposition Congress party and and its regional ally, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), look set to defeat the BJP this time.

Why the result is crucial

Although the election in Jharkhand was fought largely on local issues, the BJP’s defeat in the state is being seen as a setback for its policies.

Three of the five phases of the election were held as protests took place against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) across the country. More than 20 people have died during the protests, with many of them shot, according to local media.

The law provides citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the law would “help the persecuted” – but critics say it discriminates against Muslims.

Others – particularly in border states – fear being “overrun” by new citizens.

Speaking at a rally on Sunday, Mr Modi said Muslims – one in seven of India’s 1.35bn population – did not “need to worry at all” about the new citizenship law.

“I must assure Muslim citizens of India that this law will not change anything for them,” he said. “Muslims who are sons of the soil and whose ancestors are the children of mother India need not worry.”

In a speech which lasted nearly 100 minutes, he also denied the law was divisive.

“People who are trying to spread lies and fear, look at my work. If you see any trace of divisiveness… show it to the world,” he said.

What is the controversial law?

The CAA allows Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities to become citizens – if they were persecuted because of their religion in the three countries.

The federal government says the law will protect religious minorities fleeing persecution.

But critics say this is part of a “Hindu nationalist” agenda to marginalise more than 200 million Muslims in India.

The act follows a government plan to publish a nationwide register that it says will identify illegal immigrants.

A National Register of Citizens (NRC) published in the north-eastern state of Assam saw 1.9 million people effectively made stateless.

The NRC and the Citizenship Amendment Act are closely linked as the act will protect non-Muslims – but not Muslims – who are excluded from the register.

Thousands across India have continued protesting despite police bans, marking the biggest challenge to Mr Modi’s leadership since he won power in 2014.

Authorities have been battling to restore order – internet services in several states were shutdown and thousands have been detained.

Jharkhand election results: BJP set to lose majority amid citizenship row

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