AAP surged to power for a third term, boosted by a massive mandate of 62 seats - just a shade lower than its record 67 seats of 2015
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party was facing a stunning defeat by a regional party on Tuesday in elections in the national capital that were seen as a referendum on Modi’s policies, such as a new national citizenship law that excludes Muslims.
Saturday’s New Delhi legislative elections pit Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the incumbent Aam Aadmi Party, or “common man’s” party, whose pro-poor policies focused on fixing state-run schools and providing cheap electricity, free health care and bus transport for women during its five years in power.
Modi and Home minister Amit Shah appealed to majority Hindus by focusing on national issues such as the citizenship law, which triggered widespread protests, at the expense of problems facing the capital’s millions of residents.
The poll was the first electoral test for BJP after it passed a controversial nationality law which opponents say is anti-Muslim.
AAP surged to power for a third term, boosted by a massive mandate of 62 seats - just a shade lower than its record 67 seats of 2015.
Hindu-nationalist Modi, whose party swept to power in national elections last year, congratulated AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, the incumbent Delhi chief minister.
"Wishing them the very best in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Delhi," Modi tweeted.
The BJP had launched an aggressive campaign to win the city of nearly 20 million people from the AAP, using the election to rally support for the law easing citizenship rules for religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but excluding Muslims.
At least 25 people have been killed in protests over the legislation so far.
But the AAP, which swept to power in 2015 after it was launched three years earlier by former tax officer Kejriwal, retained control in an impressive showing.
The defeat in Delhi is the latest in a string of setbacks for the BJP at regional elections over the past two years.
Kejriwal, 51, fought the election on local issues such as subsidized water and electricity, as well as the safety of women.
"This win has given birth to a new type of politics - the politics of work," he told cheering supporters at party headquarters.
"This is the type of politics that will take the country forward in the 21st century."
Yogendra Yadav, an academic who was a member of the AAP executive until 2015 and now has his own party, said the result was a clear rejection of Modi and his party's angry campaign.
"The BJP indulged in one of the most vitriolic, communal hate mongering campaigns as a desperate electoral gamble," he told AFP.
"If this succeeded, it would have become a template for everyone else to follow.
Congress, led by the storied Gandhi-Nehru dynasty and the main opposition at the national level, was set to draw a blank in another low for a party that ruled Delhi for 15 years before AAP took over.