India's Modi is entering an election year looking weaker than ever

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi seen in April 2018. His political party is looking increasingly weak ahead of a general election next year.

New Delhi (CNN)Ahead of India's general election next year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing an unexpected image problem: he's starting to look weak.

It's a dramatic shift in the way he's been perceived ever since a history-making general election victory in 2014. For years, political observers in New Delhi spoke with awe of the "hawa," or political wind, that lifted Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power.
Each subsequent triumph -- such as the BJP's 2017 election victory in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state, and its successes in the country's northeast -- was seen as further proof of the potency of the Modi "hawa."
The Prime Minister, his party's star campaigner at all levels, was seen as unbeatable, riding the political wind to transform the BJP into India's natural party of power after years of struggling to catch up with the Congress Party.