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India’s Ruling BJP Routed in Local Delhi Elections

  • Anjana Pasricha

Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (C) waves to his supporters in New Delhi, February 10, 2015.

Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP) chief and its chief ministerial candidate for Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal (C) waves to his supporters in New Delhi, February 10, 2015.

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was routed in local elections in the national capital, Delhi, at the hands of a young party known for its strong anti-corruption plank. Although these are local polls, the first election loss for the BJP since its last year's massive victory is a setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The scale of the defeat for the BJP was far worse than expected with the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) party set to control more than 90 percent of the seats in the 70-member Delhi assembly.

Prime Minister Modi conceded defeat early and promised to support Aam Aadmi party chief Arvind Kejriwal.

The two-year-old Aam Aadmi party rode to power on a plank of rooting out corruption, providing cheaper water, electricity and clean governance.

Elections were held in New Delhi because polls a year ago produced no clear winner. At that time the BJP had emerged as the number one party.

Its massive slide since is seen as a blow for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who appeared politically invincible after he consolidated last year’s stunning victory in national elections with a string of successes in state polls.

Political commentators say the “larger-than-life” image is now dented and termed it a “wake-up call” for the BJP.

Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi said the defeat reflects disenchantment with BJP, which had promised development, jobs and “better days to come.” While it is unrealistic to expect change so fast, he said, voters are impatient.

“Modi had made huge promises. Now, he should have known before making those promises whether he would be able to deliver it or not. People’s expectations are soaring. That is the ground reality. People have no patience left. They want change,” said Misra.

The Delhi results have little direct impact on national politics, but they get disproportionate attention because New Delhi is the seat of national government. Political commentators say the loss in Delhi could also impact the BJP’s prospects in elections due in Bihar later this year. Winning state elections is crucial for the BJP, which wants to win control of the upper house of parliament.

It was a dramatic comeback for the Aam Aadmi Party. Arvind Kejriwal, the party's leader and an anti-corruption activist, has pledged to clean up Indian politics. He resigned following a brief 49-day rule in Delhi last year. The party was later routed in national elections and was dismissed by many commentators as inexperienced. Now, Kejriwal is poised to return as Chief Minister of Delhi for a second term, this time with a massive party majority in the Delhi Assembly.

As results proved the naysayers wrong, party supporters held raucous celebrations in the capital city’s streets.

Party chief Kejriwal called it the people’s victory and the victory of truth.

He said with the help of people, the party will turn Delhi into a city of which both rich and poor will feel proud.

The elections were not just a blow for the BJP. They were also bad news for the Congress Party, which had ruled Delhi for 15 years. The party was completely decimated, failing to pick up a single seat.

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