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Delhi: Broom breaks the hand's hold

Congress' defeat is being seen as a huge boost for the BJP in the run-up to the 2014 polls

Kavita Chowdhury & Sreelatha Menon  |  New Delhi 

Delhi looked set for political uncertainty as the Aam Aadmi Party's landslide (27 seats till the time of going to press) buried the Congress that had been ruling for 15 years and denied Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), four short of a majority at 32, a clear victory. Parties were predicting a hung Assembly and, hence, the Centre's rule until a clear mandate is decided in another poll, likely to coincide with the general elections of 2014.

The Congress’ Delhi defeat is being read as a huge boost for the BJP in the run-up to the general elections.

The decimation of the Congress and the chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, was best reflected in her own New Delhi constituency, where she lost to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal by 25,864 votes.

The results came as a surprise to political pundits and pollsters, who had dismissed the party, launched in October 2012, as a fringe player, giving it not more than six seats (only political research organisation Today's Chanakya’s exit poll predicted 31 seats). Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi acknowledged this was a verdict on the traditional of Congress and BJP. “Aam Aadmi Party's victory forces us to think in a way different from the traditional way the major parties have been doing,” he said. Addressing the media after Congress’ rout in most states where Assembly elections results were announced on Sunday, Gandhisaid he would now follow AAP’s example and empower the people and involve the youth in “ways that you cannot imagine”.

While Congress leaders themselves were surprised at the "severity of the loss where the party was reduced to single digits", a far cry from its 2008 tally of 43 seats, the BJP camp was contented but not euphoric.

By noon, as the results became clear, Chief Minister Dikshit tendered her resignation and celebrations gained momentum at the AAP's office in central Delhi.

For the first time, the capital, which saw a traingular contest, saw the anti-incumbency votes being divided almost equally between BJP and AAP. In what is being accepted widely as the AAP wave, sitting Congress ministers were routed in their constituencies by rank newcomers from AAP. Kiran Walia lost her Malviya Nagar seat to Somnath Bharti. Other senior ministers who lost to AAP included Yoganand Shastri, Rajkumar Chauhan, Ramakant Goswami and A K Walia. The only ones who managed to retain their seats were Arvinder Singh Lovely and Haroon Yusuf.

A jubilant Arvind Kejriwal underscored the fact that it was a “people's vote against corruption”. “It has proved to everyone that elections can be fought without using money and muscle power.” Highlighting the tremendous gains made by the party, he said political veterans like former Assembly speaker Prem Singh and minister Rajkumar Chouhan had been “humbled by ordinary candidates fielded by AAP”.

He tore into those who had dismissed AAP that the “message of honesty and transparency of the party had been accepted by the public”.

AAP's emergence has got the national parties worried. The Congress' top leadership says it will do a course correction but “would not accommodate” defeated chief ministers in the All India Congress Committee setup at the centre, sending out a message to three-time chief minister Dikshit, known to be close to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

BJP's leadership by afternoon had termed the Delhi verdict as “public acceptance of Narendra Modi as BJP's prime ministerial candidate”.

A jubilant AAP, on the other hand, is firming up plans for the Lok Sabha elections.” Our next targets are all the corrupt political leaders in all the parties in the rest of the country,” party leader Mayank Gandhi said amid celebrations in Mumbai. Asked if Modi is their next target, he said he is one of the targets and the party was not intimidated by any wave in support of BJP. “We have 300 district committees and we have been working quietly in all these districts. We have five months for the Lok Sabha elections. A lot of things will change he said.”

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First Published: Mon, December 09 2013. 00:40 IST