The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won another landslide victory on Tuesday in the high-stakes Delhi Assembly polls, leaving its main rival, the BJP, way behind and decimating the Congress in a bitterly-fought contest that took place in the midst of massive protests over the new citizenship law.
The AAP won more than 3/4th of the seats and the BJP was reduced to a single-digit tally while the Congress drew a blank in the 70-member assembly.
Later, addressing volunteers at the party office, Kejriwal said the party's landslide victory in the capital was a blessing of Lord Hanuman and the people of Delhi. He also thanked his own family members for their support.
Coincidently, the sweeping poll results came on his wife's birthday. "My family also supported me. It is my wife's birthday. I had cake, you will also get it," Kejriwal said. "People elected us with high hopes. I cannot do it alone, we all have to work together," he added.
Kejriwal told the capital's citizens "I love you" in his expression of thanks for the overwhelming mandate. He said it was not just his victory but a victory for everybody.
"Delhi has given the message that they will vote for those who will provide schools, cheap electricity and hospitals. This is a new kind of politics, the politics of work. It is a new and good sign for the nation," Kejriwal said
The AAP's moment of glory comes nearly eight months after it suffered a severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls in which the party drew a blank while the BJP won all the seven seats.
Some of the AAP heavyweights won nail-biters. They included Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Raghav Chaddha and Atishi. Delhi cabinet ministers Gopal Rai and Satyender Jain were other prominent winners.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was leading in New Delhi constituency by over 17,000 votes against his BJP rival Sunil Kumar Yadav.
The elections in the national capital took place in the midst of massive protests in the city and elsewhere over the new citizenship law, an issue which was strongly raised by the BJP top leadership during the campaigning which often turned bitter and vitriolic.
The political opponents of the BJP accused the saffron party of carrying out a "divisive" campaign to polarise the voters by consistently highlighting the over 50-day demonstration by a group of women in Shaheen Bagh area.
Though the BJP's campaign focused on national security issues, the AAP concentrated mainly on its achievements in the fields of education, healthcare and infrastructure.
The AAP had registered a sensational victory in 2015 by winning 67 seats in a hurricane march that almost wiped out the BJP and the Congress.
"We have been saying since the beginning that the upcoming polls will be fought on the basis of work done by us. You wait and watch, we will register a massive win," AAP spokesperson Sanjay Singh told reporters.
"We hope we get such a clear majority that a message goes out that doing Hindu-Muslim politics will not work anymore," said AAP volunteer Fareen Khan at the party office.
After he was declared winner from the Patparganj seat, Sisodia said the BJP indulged in "politics of hate", but people refused its agenda.
"The BJP indulged in politics of hate, but I thank the people of Patparganj. Delhi's people have chosen a government that works for them and explained the true meaning of nationalism through their mandate," he told reporters.
The AAP headquarters were decorated with blue and white balloons and big banners with pictures of Kejriwal.
The Congress accepted defeat and vowed to rebuild and revive itself at the grassroots level in the city.
It said the poll results also had a message for the BJP that the "most toxic campaign" unleashed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been defeated.
"People's mandate is against us, we accept it. We have resolved to revive and rebuild the party," Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said at a press conference.
A total of 672 candidates, including 593 men and 79 women, were in the fray for the hotly contested elections.
Their fates were decided in counting centres across 21 locations in 11 districts, including at the CWG Sports Complex in east Delhi, NSIT Dwarka in west Delhi, Meerabai Institute of Technology and G B Pant Institute of Technology in southeast Delhi, Sir CV Raman ITI, Dheerpur in central Delhi, and Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Bawana in north Delhi.
While Kejriwal was the star campaigner for the AAP, Prime Minister Modi, Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were among those who extensively campaigned for the BJP.
The Congress got into campaign mode much later. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were among those who campaigned for the Congress.
(With agency inputs)