On 8th Feb voting in a crucial state election took place in India’s capital New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, emboldened by national victories, is hoping to retake power after 22 years on the side line. However, exit polls suggest a big defeat for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The PM’s policies of Hindu exceptionalism have caused widespread protests across India in the last few months. An average of nine exit polls showed New Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or “common man’s party,” to win 52 out of 70 seats. The BJP had been seeking to oust Kejriwal, whose party took a record 67 of 70 Delhi assembly seats in 2015. While Kejriwal focused on local issues including the heavily subsidised electricity, water and healthcare he introduced, BJP leaders sought to turn the vote into a referendum on the women’s protest. With the BJP on the back foot after failing in recent state elections in Maharashtra and Jharkhand, analysts said the Delhi result will be a key test of opinion on national issues. Near the women’s protest site, food company senior executive Maroof Ahmad said the “BJP has only two agendas Shaheen Bagh and Pakistan. They have nothing else to talk about.” Ironically, on the eve of the elections, the BJP sent out messages telling people to vote for the party if they wanted an end to the Shaheen Bagh demonstration. One of the biggest takeaways of the election is the failure of the BJP to capitalize on national issues such as the abrogation of Article 370 and National Register of Citizens. The BJP’s intentions of undermining the effects of the economic slowdown, unemployment, and rural discontent have not been successful.

ANZA KANWAL,

Rawalpindi.