Modi dealt huge blow as AAP sweeps Delhi elections

New Delhi: An upstart anti corruption party party was heading for an overwhelming victory in elections Tuesday to install a state government in India’s capital, a potentially huge blow for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

The trends released by India’s Election Commission show that the Aam Admi Party (AAP), led by Arvind Kejriwal, was leading in 64 of the 70 seats while Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was ahead in five seats. Nearly half of the vote has been counted so far.

If the trend holds, it would be a major setback for Modi and his party, which has been on a winning streak since sweeping national elections in May.

The BJP’s decision to ignore the local leadership and field an outsider, Kiran Bedi, India’s first high-ranking female IPS officer, as its candidate for New Delhi’s top post appears to have backfired.

She faced Arvind Kejriwal, a former IRS officer turned popular anti-corruption activist.

Bedi was once a key Kejriwal ally and at the forefront of his anti corruption movement. But she later left and joined the BJP in January.

The party that wins at least 36 seats in Delhi’s 70-member assembly selects the capital’s chief minister, the city’s most senior official.

The election is viewed as the first tough political battle that Modi and the BJP have faced since coming to power in May.

The BJP’s success is largely attributed to Modi’s personal charisma and popularity and his key election promise to lift Asia’s third-largest economy from its slump.

The Delhi Government has been run by the central government since its elected government resigned last February.

In elections late last year, no party won enough seats to form a government. The BJP won 32 seats, four short of a majority, but no political group was willing to support it to form a coalition government.

Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi, or Common Man’s Party, won 28 seats in that election. It formed a government with the support of the centrist Congress party, but Kejriwal resigned after 49 days in office when no party supported his proposal to appoint an independent anti-corruption panel.

Kejriwal’s party was formed on the back of hugely popular street protests that galvanized India’s middle class against the culture of corruption that is endemic in this nation of 1.2 billion.

Rooting out graft and creating an ombudsman position have been Kejriwal’s key aims.

Inputs with AP