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Modi’s party heads for defeat in Delhi polls

Early tallies showed the BJP leading in just 12 seats

Published: Updated:

Indian leader Narendra Modi’s party was heading Tuesday for a major defeat in Delhi state elections at the hands of anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal, in the premier’s first loss since storming to power last year.

Officials began counting millions of ballots at 8:00am (0230 GMT), with exit polls from weekend elections predicting a huge loss for Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Early tallies showed the BJP leading in just 12 seats, with former Delhi chief minister Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ahead in 55 in the 70-seat state assembly.

A Kejriwal victory would mark a stunning comeback for the anti-graft champion and self-styled anarchist, who resigned following a chaotic 49-day spell in charge of the Delhi state government a year ago.

Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man Party, leader Arvind Kejriwal, center, campaigns ahead of Delhi state elections in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. Delhi goes to the polls on Feb. 7. (AP Photo)
Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man Party, leader Arvind Kejriwal, center, campaigns ahead of Delhi state elections in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. Delhi goes to the polls on Feb. 7. (AP Photo)

Hundreds of AAP supporters were massing outside the party’s headquarters in Delhi, dancing, singing and waving flags with pictures of former tax official Kejriwal.

Observers say a defeat will be a significant setback for a prime minister who has enjoyed an extended honeymoon with voters since his landslide general election victory in May.

A BJP spokesman said the results were not a sign of anti-Modi sentiment and that the election had been fought on local issues, including pledges for lower utility bills and countering corruption.

“There is not an iota of negativity against the NDA (national) government anywhere in the country let alone in Delhi,” spokesman GVL Narasimha Rao told NDTV.

“There is a local election where local factors dominated.”

A loss would set back Modi’s efforts to consolidate power in the national parliament to push through promised economic reforms.

Modi needs to win state elections to gain control of both houses of parliament, where he is attempting to push through reforms on land acquisition, tax and other issues to revive the economy.

States are allocated seats in the nation’s upper house where the BJP does not have a majority.