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Until now, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had seemed unstoppable.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had come to dominate the world’s biggest democracy since coming to power 10 years ago, their Hindu nationalist politics becoming ever more entrenched in India along the way. Even as critics accused him of stoking religious tensions, eroding human rights and muzzling the press, Modi was consistently rated as the most popular leader in the world.

It was only in January that Modi, 73, inaugurated a grand Hindu temple on a contested holy site in the northern city of Ayodhya, fulfilling a longtime promise to supporters and stirring fear among India’s Muslim minority, who have found themselves increasingly marginalized under his rule.

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