Shock defeat for Modi’s ruling party in Delhi local elections as rival AAP emerges victorious

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suffered a shock defeat in municipal elections in national capital New Delhi as the opposition Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) edged out the Hindu nationalist party and wrested power.

In a tightly contested fight that went down to the wire, the AAP crossed the half-way mark of 125 wards out of a total 250 in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), as results were counted on Wednesday.

The BJP, which had been in power in the corporation since 2007, was down to 103 wards.

With the win in the municipal polls, the AAP now has control of both the state assembly and the municipal body.

AAP, just a month before the Covid pandemic began, had won a resounding mandate in the assembly elections, clinching 63 out of a total 70 seats, in one of the most heavily communally polarised contests ever seen in the national capital.

The party’s national convenor Arvind Kejriwal was elected chief minister of the Union Territory after the win.

Mr Kejriwal, who has positioned himself as a direct challenger to Mr Modi and is looking to take on the prime minister in the 2024 national elections, thanked the people of Delhi for voting his party to power in the municipal body.

“Thanks to the people of Delhi for this grand victory and many congratulations to all. Now all of us together have to make Delhi clean and beautiful,” he said in a tweet.

Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the mandate showed the people of Delhi had shown the door to the “world’s biggest and most negative party”.

According to the state election commission, the lone transgender candidate Bobi, fielded by the AAP, won from the Sultanpuri-A ward.

“I faced insults all my life, but it never stopped me from dreaming that transgender people like me will get value and respect in society one day. I never lost that hope. I know that transgender and queer people are still looked down upon and do not get equal opportunities… a lot has to done, but this is first step,” she said to The Indian Express last month.

Both parties had launched a high-decibel campaign in the national capital.

The AAP focused on anti-incumbency and accused the BJP of not delivering on its promises of clean roads and garbage management in the city, while the BJP had homed in on attempting to prove that the AAP failed on its main anti-corruption plank.

In the days running up to the elections, a series of videos were released which showed jailed Delhi minister and AAP member Satyendar Jain getting a massage in his jail cell, where he has been lodged for months on money laundering charges.

The BJP had capitalised on the videos to prove its point.

But the MCD elections showed the party was capable of unseating the BJP, perceived by its supporters to be undefeatable, it said.

Prior to its current victory in the municipal polls, the AAP has either attempted to buck an anti-incumbency trend, as seen in Delhi in 2020, or ventured to other states like Punjab, where it snatched power from the Congress this year.

“The BJP would always say AAP has only defeated Congress. Today, Arvind Kejriwal has given them an answer,” AAP’s Sanjay Singh was quoted as saying by NDTV.

The municipal polls are the first since the civic body was reunified and wards redrawn. In 2012, the MCD was trifurcated area wise into three bodies.

The poll results on Wednesday also established AAP as the principal opposition to the BJP, with the Congress being reduced to just nine wards.

The election results come a day before the state assembly election results for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat are slated to be announced on Thursday – where the AAP is again looking to emerge as the principal challenger to the BJP, especially in the latter, which is Mr Modi’s home state.