Incumbent Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal‘s Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party or AAP) has inflicted a crushing defeat on Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a key election in the capital.
In the state assembly election held on Saturday, the AAP returned to power for a third straight term by winning 62 of the 70 seats while the BJP won the other eight, India’s Election Commission said on Tuesday.
The Congress party, led by Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, repeated its 2015 performance and once again drew a blank.
“Dilliwalon (residents of Delhi), I love you,” said Kejriwal, 51, while addressing his party’s workers in the city, calling the landslide verdict a “win for Bharat Mata (Mother India)”.
“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.”
In the last election held in 2015, the AAP had won a historic 67 of the 70 seats.
Tuesday’s results showed the BJP’s poll campaign, one of the most divisive in the capital, did not pay off, as voters opted for Kejriwal’s pro-poor policies in the city of nearly 20 million people.
The BJP had run an aggressive campaign, using the election to rally support for a controversial nationality law that eases citizenship rules for non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Modi, 69, who swept to power in national elections last year, congratulated Kejriwal. “Wishing them the very best in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Delhi,” the Hindu nationalist leader tweeted.
‘Defeat of the politics of polarisation’
“The Delhi result is extremely important because it signals a defeat of the politics of polarisation and division that BJP unleashed here,” political analyst Zoya Hasan told Al Jazeera.
“This election was perhaps the most hate-filled election in India’s electoral history. The Delhi voter has given a very good message to the country that hate politics doesn’t work,” said Hasan, who is also Professor Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
“I hope the BJP will learn a lesson and shouldn’t repeat this kind of blatant hate politics in other states that are going to elections in the next two years.”
Nearly 61 percent of the capital’s 14.7 million voters cast their ballots on Saturday in elections believed to be a litmus test for Modi in the wake of deadly anti-government protests that erupted nearly two months ago.
“People have voted for the development work that AAP has been able to deliver in the last tenure,” Neha Tyagi, vice president of AAP’s women wing, told Al Jazeera.
The AAP’s pro-poor policies had focused on fixing state-run schools and providing free healthcare and bus fares for women during its first term.
The BJP was accused of running a campaign based on religious polarisation, with many of its leaders targeting the Muslim community, who form a little more than 10 percent of the capital’s population.
The New Delhi election is being seen as a test of Modi’s popularity following months of deadly nationwide anti-government protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that saw thousands of people take to the streets daily in the capital and across India.
The law makes it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from three neighbouring countries who came to India before 2015 to become Indian citizens, a provision that forces critics to call the legislation anti-Muslim.
The CAA and a proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens have stoked suspicion that Modi wants to turn secular India into a Hindu nation, something his party denies.
“People of Delhi have rejected BJP’s politics of hate and divide,” Gurucharan Singh, an AAP supporter, told Al Jazeera.
“BJP tried its best to make CAA a big election issue, but people gave its mandate to AAP on the development work it has done in the last five years and rejected BJP.”
Bilal Kuchay contributed to this report from New Delhi