NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces the first real test of his popularity Saturday when voters in Delhi elect a new state government, with a self-styled anarchist bidding to stall the premier’s bandwagon.
The results, to be announced on Tuesday, could also prove to be a new low for the long-ruling Congress party which suffered a landslide defeat to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in May’s general election.
Since May, Modi has been the master of all he surveyed as his Hindu nationalist party romped to victory in a string of state elections.
But Delhi, which the BJP surprisingly failed to win in December 2013, could prove elusive once more and deliver the first real reverse for the premier who has been enjoying an extended honeymoon with voters.
Standing in his way is a familiar foe: Arvind Kejriwal who quit after a chaotic 49-day reign as Delhi chief minister but whom opinion polls say could return to power.
Kejriwal, leader of the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party, failed to prevent Modi from winning the parliamentary seat of Varanasi in May.
But he could deliver fresh embarrassment to the Indian PM who has rolled out his big guns to prevent the former taxman from returning to power.
Modi put his two top lieutenants – BJP president Amit Shah and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley – in charge of the campaign while a former top policewoman Kiran Bedi was handpicked as the choice for chief minister.