NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Congress party faced an electoral humiliation on Sunday at the hands of the main nationalist opposition and an upstart anti-corruption party, in the last major test before next year’s national polls.
Early tallies showed Congress, in power at national level for a decade, losing control of all four state assemblies up for grabs in Sunday’s vote count, including in the capital New Delhi where it was set to come third.
While the outcome is a boost for the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), analysts said the stunning support for an anti-graft party in the Delhi contest signalled a wider anger with mainstream politics.
Elections in the four states— Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh—have been held at different points over the last month but the counting had been postponed until Sunday.
Votes will be counted in the remote Congress-ruled state of Mizoram on Monday.
While the final picture would not become clear until the afternoon, Indian television said early tallies indicated the BJP would win by a landslide in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and was running neck and neck with Congress in Chhattisgarh.
But the main focus was on New Delhi, where Congress was facing a wipeout after being in power for the last 15 years.
All channels predicted that the BJP would be the largest party, but some forecast it would be deprived of an outright majority in the 70-seat assembly by the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (Common People’s Party).
The AAP only launched last year but it now is slated to win between 20 and 25 seats, said the channels, while the number of Congress seats could fall into single figures.
Sheila Dikshit, India’s longest-serving chief minister, was expected her to lose her seat to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, a former civil servant.
“We have succeeded in altering the political discourse of the elections,” Athishi Marlena, one of Kejriwal’s top lieutenants, told the NDTV network.
“I think it’s historic that a party that was formed just a year ago, a party which was written off till yesterday by the other two big parties, has made such a spectacular debut.”
As early results trickled in, triumphant Aam Aadmi supporters who had gathered at the party headquarters could be seen waving brooms—the party’s election symbol of its pledge to clean up politics.