In the days leading to the Delhi election, it had become clear that the Aam Admi Party (AAP) would win comfortably against the ruling BJP and Congress. However, no one anticipated the sheer scale of AAP’s sweep – 67 seats out of 70 – following its controversial brief stint in power after the last elections and subsequent resignations. Congress, the party that has ruled Delhi for the last 18 years, scored a duck while the BJP could only manage to secure 3 seats.

Recent elections show that Indian voters are responding better to positive campaigns. While AAP’s main contender, the BJP, ran a negative campaign to discredit AAP chief Arvind Kerjiwal and colleagues, AAP focused on selling its manifesto to every segment of society, particularly the youth and the poor. BJP had followed the same formula during the Lok Sabha elections, promising development and economic uplift as Congress launched attack after attack on Narendra Modi. It didn’t work for Congress then, and it hasn’t worked for BJP now.

AAP’s manifesto, though criticized by many for being unrealistic and populist, clearly resonated with the masses who fear that BJP’s economic model is not inclusive. AAP’s promises of free water, cuts in energy tariffs, strict action against corruption and protection of rights and properties of the poor from capitalist ventures, made it appear as a common man’s party to the masses, who showered it with more than 50% votes. AAP had been criticized for heavily relying on rhetoric in the absence of a governance plan. The party had to convince voters it would implement its manifesto at all costs and not quit like last time. AAP’s campaign managed to achieve that goal quite successfully.

Is the result of Delhi elections a referendum on the Modi-led government? Yes and no. It is a culmination of Delhi politics and national politics. BJP’s decision to bring in former civil servant Kiran Bedi – a well-reputed political outsider – to counter Kejriwal, did not sit well with local cadres. Also, almost all of Congress vote went to AAP. Fulfillment of electoral promises usually takes time, and people are usually impatient. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be working hard, but the quick progress expected by people has not manifested itself leading to disillusionment. The coming elections will show whether it is just Delhi – a city that has never had an easy relationship with the BJP – or a national phenomenon.

In any case, AAP’s victory has clearly shown that Modi and BJP are not invincible, that they can be defeated, even humiliated, and they cannot afford to get their eyes off the game. Opposition parties now feel that they can put up a united front against Modi, but AAP claims that it is not interested in the traditional politics of coalitions and self-serving confrontations. AAP has got what it wished for. That is often the worst thing that can happen in politics. If it can successfully capitalise on this wonderful opportunity, it will change Indian politics forever.