NEW DELHI: India's ruling party lost a key state election on Tuesday in its first electoral test since deadly anti-government protests erupted nearly two months ago.
The Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a bigger majority in a general election in May, but it has lost a string of state elections since then.
The liberal Aam Aadmi Party has won 62 out of 70 seats in the election. BJP could manage only 8 seats in the poll, however, it is an increase of 5 seats from last Delhi elections held in 2015. The Congress - the main opposition at national level - could not even win a single seat in the election, reflecting the deep decline in its fortunes.
Neelanjan Sircar, an assistant professor at Ashoka University near New Delhi, said that local issues, including delivery of basic services like education and health, appeared to sway voters towards the AAP, even as the BJP ran a polarising campaign on the back of Modi's image.
"Modi is a larger than life character at the national level, which obviously gives the BJP a huge advantage in national politics," Sircar said.
"But it doesn't translate to state level politics, where the BJP often doesn't have a charismatic face."
Bespectacled former bureaucrat Kejriwal, 51, formed AAP in 2012 amid an anti-corruption movement that swept India.
The party won a stunning victory in 2015 state elections in the capital, wiping out the BJP and Congress, the party that has ruled India for half its post-independence history.