New Delhi, Dec 8: Delhi threw up a hung assembly Sunday after a bitterly fought three-way election that crushed the Congress and brought the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) within handshaking distance of power, denying it a clear victory because of a spectacular showing by the debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
So sweeping was the Congress defeat that even Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who had governed the capital for 15 years, lost by a humiliating 25,864 votes to AAP founder-leader Arvind Kejriwal – in his first election battle. She immediately resigned.
The BJP’s (31 seats) celebrations were muffled by the fact that it did not have a clear majority in the 70-member assembly, with the AAP winning a stunning 28 seats and the Congress relegated to a poor third with eight seats.
The remaining three seats were shared by an independent, the Janata Dal-United and Akali Dal, making the task of cobbling a majority all the more difficult for the BJP and its chief ministerial candidate, Harsh Vardhan, a doctor by profession.
BJP leader Satish Upadhyay said the party respected the people’s verdict and could not force anyone to support it.
“We will discuss our next move,” he told IANS.
“We will form government if we get support. Otherwise, we would like to sit in the opposition,” BJP’s Delhi in-charge Nitin Gadkari said.
Indicating that the logjam may not be easy to resolve, Kejriwal said: “We are ready to sit in the opposition. We will never accept support from anyone.”
Accepting defeat, Dikshit submitted her resignation to Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung, who dissolved the legislative assembly and forwarded her resignation to President Pranab Mukherjee.
“I would like to thank everyone for their support. We will analyse what went wrong later,” a sombre-looking Dikshit told reporters outside her house while declining to take questions.
A shaken Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and party vice president Rahul also expressed shock at the results.
“In Delhi, a great deal of work was done (by the government). But the results tell us something else. We will introspect and take steps to rectify it,” Gandhi said.
It was, however, the phenomenal success of AAP, which came into existence as a political party only last year, that surprised both the ruling Congress and the BJP.
After his victory, Kejriwal said: “This isn’t my victory. It’s a victory of the people of the New Delhi constituency and victory of democracy.”
He was addressing hundreds of his supporters waving the “broom” – the election symbol of the party – at the party’s Hanuman Road headquarters in Connaught Place.
In a TV interview, Kejriwal said there was no “Modi wave” in Delhi and that the BJP vote share was reduced even though the party gained a few seats.
The BJP admitted that the AAP’s stunning performance in Delhi was “surprising” but maintained it would form a government.
“We always thought of AAP as competition and we were expecting it to get double-digit seats, but this is surprising,” BJP state president Vijay Goel told the media.
BJP chief ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan thanked the people for reposing their faith in the party.
“I thank the people of Delhi for reposing their faith in BJP,” he said.
He congratulated Kejriwal and thanked former chief minister Dikshit.
“I want to congratulate Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party… they performed very well against expectations,” he told reporters here.
The Congress, which governed Delhi since 1998 with Dikshit at its helm, was stunned.
Some supporters, who were still hopeful despite trends showing a Congress drubbing, held prayers at Dikshit’s residence for a miracle. Some even brought sweets in the morning, but were shooed away.
Anna Hazare, once a mentor of Kejriwal who fell out with him over the latter’s political ambitions, also praised him.
“Defeating Sheila Dikshit is not an easy thing. People gave their mandate,” Hazare said.