NEW DELH: India’s upstart anti-graft party faced a key test on Thursday as the national capital voted in the first major phase of the country’s marathon gene- ral elections.
The third phase of voting began at 7 a.m. (1:30 a.m. Manila time) in 91 constituencies, representing nearly a fifth of the 543-seat lower house, across the capital and 13 other states, including Maoist insurgency-hit eastern India.
But the main spotlight was on the Delhi birthplace of the Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party (AAP), even if it may have lost some steam since it sensationally took power in the state in December.
“The enthusiasm, the hope has died. People have become disillusioned with them,” Delhi-based analyst Amulya Ganguli told Agence France-Presse.
The AAP has struggled to shake the “quitter” tag used by critics following the dramatic resignation of party chief Arvind Kejriwal just 49 days after he came to office as Delhi’s chief minister.
“They didn’t stay on to govern and their drama-creating behavior put people off,” Ganguli said.
The nine-stage elections which kicked off Monday are expected to vault the Hindu nationalist opposition to power at a time of low economic growth, seething anger over widespread corruption, and warnings about religious unrest. Results are expected on May 16.
The 814-million-strong electorate is forecast to inflict a punishing defeat on the Congress party after its decade-long rule and elect the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by conservative hardliner Narendra Modi.
The AAP is contesting its first general elections since it was spawned by a 2011 anti-graft movement, and rode a wave of public anger over a string of corruption scandals.
It has promised to clean up politics by weeding out politicians involved in criminal cases.