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Modi’s BJP Upset in New Delhi Elections

Exit polls forecast Modi party defeat in Delhi elections

Exit polls forecast Modi party defeat in Delhi elections Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man’s Party, leader Arvind Kejriwal displays the indelible ink mark on his finger after casting his vote in New Delhi, India, on Saturday (AP)

The results from last weekend’s state government elections in New Delhi have been tallied, and the message on Tuesday was clear – voters are still fed up with corruption.  A recent poll showed more than half of respondents revealing they had paid a bribe over the past year.  Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promises to deal with corruption, made some nine months ago, it appears voters showed little patience as they backed Arvind Kejriwal, and his Aam Admi Party, or Common Man’s Party.  India’s Election Commission revealed the AAP swept 67 out of 70 seats, with the BJP winning three.  Analysts attribute the success of the Common Man’s Party over Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Kiran Bedi, a former police officer and former Kejriwal ally, to its promise to fight corruption,  “In a city where the livelihoods of the poor are criminalized on a daily basis, a party which vows to redress these brutal inequalities becomes a change agent,” according to an op-ed piece in The Times of India.

Kejriwal, a graduate from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and a former tax collector, came to fame during the 2013 election campaign by focusing on corruption.  The 2013 election did not result in an outright majority for any party, leaving Kejriwal to run a minority government for 49 days before ceding control of New Delhi to the federal government.  Kejriwal’s short time as New Delhi’s leader last year saw promises of cracking down on bribe-taking among police officers and public officials, and even encouraging citizens to film bribes being taken by officials.   Kejriwal, also known as Muffler Man for often wearing scarves around his head at rallies, appealed to the working class by taking the subway to his inauguration.  Kejriwal is also known for teaming up with activist Anna Hazare, to launch a nationwide campaign against graft following a series of scandals involving the previous national government, which eventually led to well-attended hunger strikes by Hazare in Delhi in 2011.

Tuesday’s results came as a shock to the BJP, which had been on a winning streak after handily defeating the competition in national elections in May, with promises of ending corruption and sparking economic growth.  Yet some analysts also say Modi’s failure to enact reform and arrogance (sporting a $17,000 suit with pinstripes of gold threads that repeat his name) were also behind the defeat.  Promises of lower utility bills and free wifi may have also added to his popularity among the working class.

On Tuesday, Modi tweeted: “Spoke to @ArvindKejriwal and congratulated him on the win. Assured him Centre’s complete support in the development of Delhi.”  Kejriwal will need Modi’s support and more if he is to truly attempt to rein in endemic corruption in New Delhi.  While India has recently made progress against corruption – surpassing China’s ranking in Berlin-based Transparency International’s survey as less corrupt – much remains to be done in India’s largest city.  Kejriwal will also need to prove he can administer – his chaotic 49 days of running New Delhi ended with his resignation as chief minister – leaving the city without a government for a year and leaving lingering doubts over his capabilities to govern.



Gary Sands

Gary Sands is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat, a crowdsourced consultancy, and a Director at Highway West Capital Advisors, a venture capital, project finance and political risk advisory. He has contributed a number of op-eds for Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, Washington Times, The Diplomat, The National Interest, International Policy Digest, Asia Times, EurasiaNet, Eurasia Review, Indo-Pacific Review, the South China Morning Post, and the Global Times. He was previously employed in lending and advisory roles at Shell Capital, ABB Structured Finance, and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation. He earned his Masters of Business Administration in International Business from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and a Bachelor of Science in Finance at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. He spent six years in Shanghai from 2006-2012, four years in Rio de Janeiro, and is currently based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. [email protected]

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