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Narendra Modi’s BJP suffers big loss in New Delhi elections

Andrew Cuomo

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s party suffered a dramatic local election defeat in New Delhi over the weekend, with voters in the capital choosing to ignore his divisive platform.

Voters gave a resounding victory to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won 62 out of 70 seats in the Legislative Assembly elections, held on February 8. The victory secures another term in office for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won eight seats, five more than it secured in the last local election in 2015, according to the Election Commission of India.

Once again, India’s main opposition Congress party, which was at the helm of the Delhi government from 1998 until 2013, failed to make a mark.

While the BJP was not expected to win, the election was still a battle for prestige, with the two parties vying for recognition in the country’s capital.

Parliament and the government residences are all based in New Delhi, and Modi’s BJP was looking to assert its authority after winning a landslide victory in national elections in May.

However, this is the latest in a series of state election losses for the BJP, with the Congress party claiming sole or allied victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Jharkand.

Voters reject divisive politics

The Delhi election had come to represent a mandate on Modi’s divisive platform.

But voters chose not to be swayed by the BJP’s ideological battle and instead re-elected Kejriwal — the incumbent who is popular among the city’s lower income communities for his welfare policies.

Voter turnout sat at 62.59% compared to a record 67.12% in the previous poll in 2015.

Kejriwal, a former bureaucrat, came into the political spotlight as an anti-corruption campaigner. His party’s symbol, a broom, represents the sweeping out of corruption.

He first became chief minister in 2013 and was re-elected in 2015 with 67 seats. The party’s campaign highlighted the local medical clinics it has built for the city’s poor, improved state education and its work to provide water and electricity to lower-income households.

Speaking at a victory rally outside the party headquarters in New Delhi, Kejriwal thanked Delhiites “for trusting its son for a third time.”

“Delhiites have given out a message that they will only vote for the one who builds schools, neighborhood clinics, provides 24-hour cheap electricity, water in every home and better roads. Friends, this is a new kind of politics…It is not the victory of Delhiites alone, it is a victory for Mother India, for our entire country,” he added.

Much of the BJP’s campaign, which featured rallies held by Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and the controversial Hindu priest-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath, hinged on the newly implemented controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and the ongoing protests it has spurred in the capital, including a 24/7 sit-in in the capital’s Muslim-dominated Shaheen Bagh area as well as local universities.

Pro-poor policies beat polarizing politics

A number of politicians from across the spectrum took to social media to congratulate Kejriwal, including Modi and Rahul Gandhi, former president of the Congress party.

Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal state and leader of the left Trinamool Congress party, tweeted, “…Leaders playing on faith through hate speech & divisive politics should take a cue, as only those who deliver on their promises are rewarded.”

Many echoed Banerjee’s sentiments, praising the AAP for focusing on the issues that matter.

Delhi’s election results show voters want “food, clothes, a house, electricity, water, schools, doctors and most of all communal harmony, peace. Is it that difficult a task for mainstream parties?” read one tweet.

Another supporter tweeted: “What #AAP exemplified is simply the fact that if you provide good customer service that is felt across, you reap rewards. The work they have done in govt schools have given a financial option, previously non existent, for the poor to educate their children. And that’s a big deal.”

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