New Delhi | The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took a mammoth lead in trends for the counting of votes in the Delhi assembly polls on Tuesday, racing ahead in 61 seats of the 70-member House and leaving its main rival BJP trailing far behind.
According to leads from state-run Rajya Sabha TV, the AAP was ahead in 61 seats – well ahead of the two-thirds mark – while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led in eight seats and the Congress was yet to open its account.
Leads from other TV news channels suggested the AAP had made gains in 24 seats when compared to the 2013 polls. The BJP, on the other hand, was trailing in 18 seats it had won in the last elections.
Counting of votes began at 8am and the Election Commission said all results were expected to be in by 12.30pm.
After the Capital voted in assembly elections for the second time in 14 months, exit polls had predicted on Saturday the AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal was set to return to power, an outcome likely to have national ramifications.
Half a dozen exit polls said the AAP, born in 2012 on the strength of an anti-corruption movement, could bag between 31 and 53 seats in the assembly — where 36 is the magic number — after a closely fought election that saw a record turnout of 67.10%. Altogether 8.9 million of the city’s 13.3 million-strong electorate cast their votes.
The 2013 elections had thrown up a hung assembly, and the AAP (with 28 MLAs) formed a government with the outside support of eight Congress legislators.
The Congress was virtually wiped out in the national capital, another fall in the grand old party’s fortunes following its resounding defeat in last year’s general election. The exit polls too had relegated the BJP to the second spot and wiped out the Congress.
The BJP had projected former IPS officer Kiran Bedi as its chief ministerial candidate after her surprise induction days ahead of the polls. The Congress, which ruled Delhi for 15 years until December 2013, was given at best four seats by the forecasts.
Both the BJP and the Congress, however, had trashed the predictions and exuded confidence about a good show in the elections that saw a high-pitched and intense campaign marred by name-calling and barbs.
A resurgent AAP is all set to get some fresh oxygen that will help it stay on course for its national ambitions.
Kejriwal, who quit as CM last year after just 49 days in power and was widely criticised for a series of controversies during his brief stint, saw just four out of his 400-odd party candidates registering a win in the Lok Sabha elections.
The former CM, however, campaigned hard in Delhi and reiterated he would not commit the same mistakes again if he was given another chance by voters. Banking on his anti-corruption agenda, he also put emphasis on providing Delhiites with cheap ‘bijli-paani’ (electricity and water).
On the other hand, a defeat for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP in the national capital would harm his chances of consolidating power in Parliament, where his reform agenda is being thwarted.
Modi needs to win most of the state elections over the next four years to gain control of both Houses of Parliament to deliver on his promise of jobs and economic growth.
A loss in Delhi will also bring to a halt the BJP’s election juggernaut that has cruised to success in four crucial state elections after crossing the Lok Sabha hurdle comfortably last May.
In the run-up to the Delhi polls, the battle for the city-state saw a fierce war of words between the PM, who added thunder to the BJP’s campaign, and Kejriwal, who lost to Modi in Varanasi in the April-May elections.
Huge billboards across the Capital as well as the BJP’s advertisement blitz urged voters to support Modi. Amid negative predictions, the BJP has, however, said the results in Delhi will not be a referendum on PM Modi
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