NEW DELHI (AP) – An upstart anti-corruption party has won a smashing victory in elections to install a state government in India’s capital, officials said Tuesday, dealing a huge blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party.
As the results from this past weekend’s elections pointed to an overwhelming win for former tax collector Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Admi Party, or Common Man’s Party, thousands of jubilant supporters began beating drums and dancing in celebration, yelling “Five years, Kejriwal!”
“Such a big mandate is very scary, and we should live up to people’s expectations,” Kejriwal told his cheering supporters, who showered rose petals on him outside the party’s headquarters in New Delhi.
Kejriwal, who will become New Delhi’s chief minister, said the arrogance of leaders in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party led to its poor showing. The BJP had been on a winning streak since demolishing the competition in national elections in May, with many attributing its success to Modi’s charisma, his promises of economic growth and voters’ fury over endemic corruption.
Modi said he spoke with Kejriwal on Tuesday, congratulating him and assuring the federal government’s support in developing the capital.
“The AAP is going to write a chapter in history, in the history of politics,” party supporter Nandidi, a homemaker who goes by one name, said while celebrating outside party headquarters.
With more than two-thirds of the votes counted, India’s Election Commission said the AAP already had won 43 out of 45 seats, with the BJP winning just two. The AAP was racing ahead in 24 other constituencies, and the BJP in the remaining one in the 70-seat assembly.
“Something dramatic has happened,” a dejected BJP spokesman Nalin Kohli said.
The Congress party, which governed the Indian capital for 15 years until its defeat in 2013, was nowhere on the radar.
One Congress party leader, Rita Bahuguna, said the vote amounted to “a referendum on Modi’s arrogant style of functioning, communalising politics in the country.” She suggested the BJP’s profile as a Hindu nationalist party had exacerbated communal tensions, leading to Hindu-Muslim clashes earlier this year in northern India, as well as encouraging a series of attacks on New Delhi churches.
The BJP had hoped to make a comeback in New Delhi, where it lost its stronghold 15 years ago, and many speculated the party decided to field former police officer and party outsider Kiran Bedi, a former Kejriwal ally, to strengthen the local leadership.