New Delhi: The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party was on course to a landslide victory on Tuesday in the high-stakes Delhi Assembly polls, leaving the main rival 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 was leading in 63 seats, the BJP in seven constituencies while the Congress drew a blank in the 70-member assembly, according to the latest vote tally.
The AAP's stupendous victory 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.
Among the AAP heavyweights who won the elections after a nail-bitter included Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Ragav Chaddha and Atishi. Delhi cabinet ministers Gopal Rai, Satyender Jain also were among 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 BJP's campaign focused on national security issues, the AAP mainly focused 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 which 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 picture 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.
There are 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.
A total of 672 candidates, including 593 men and 79 women, were in the fray for the hotly contested elections.
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.