New Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) eviscerated the competition for a historic result in Delhi today, delivering the first major blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since his own spectacular election last year.
The BJP, which was pushed into faraway second place, was quick to allege that the result cannot be interpreted as a sign that the PM’s popularity may be ebbing. “This is not a referendum on the central government,” said party spokesman GVL Narasimha Rao.
Once it became clear that AAP had swept the capital, the Prime Minister phoned Mr Kejriwal to congratulate him; they agreed to meet soon for tea.
“The size of this victory is scary,” Mr Kejriwal said in a victory speech to party workers, who showered him with petals. “Let us not become arrogant,” he cautioned.
Today’s verdict will be particularly sweet for Mr Kejriwal, 44, who was described as a “back-stsabber” by the PM in the campaign for Delhi, who derided him for resigning as Chief Minister of Delhi after a 49-day term. Months after that disastrous exit, Mr Kejriwal lost the Parliamentary election in Varanasi to Mr Modi by a vast margin.
Winning power in different states is critical for the BJP and its allies to augment their strength in the Rajya Sabha or upper house of Parliament, where they are in a minority and have been thwarted in efforts to push through reforms on land acquisition, tax and other issues to revive the economy.
Since it came to power, the BJP has formed the government in three of four states that have voted. The Delhi debacle will be dissected threadbare as the party preps its strategy for Bihar, which votes later this year.
Based on their population, states are allocated seats in the Rajya Sabha. Bihar is India’s second most-populous state, after Uttar Pradesh.