Mon, Feb 09, 2015 - Page 5 News List

India PM’s party rejects election defeat forecast in New Delhi state election

AFP, NEW DELHI

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party yesterday staunchly denied that Modi was facing his first election defeat since taking power last year, even though exit polls tipped an anticorruption campaigner to win New Delhi’s state polls.

Six exit polls that were released hours after voting ended on Saturday indicated that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had beaten Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Although such tallies have been inaccurate in the past, a loss for Modi would set back his plans to consolidate power in the Indian Parliament to push through promised economic reforms.

Victory for Kejriwal would mark a stunning comeback for the antigraft champion who resigned following a chaotic 49-day spell in charge of the Delhi state government a year ago.

A win would also be particularly sweet for former tax official Kejriwal, who was trounced by Modi when they battled for the same seat in a general election in May last year.

The AAP won just four seats nationally.

A BJP leader refused to throw in the towel, saying that official results to be released tomorrow would show a different story.

“The results will defy the exit poll predictions, as BJP will emerge victorious and will definitely form the next government,” the BJP’s Delhi state party General Secretary Ramesh Bidhuri told reporters. “[However] if BJP does lose the elections, we cannot say Narendra Modi’s popularity has dwindled or the Modi wave is over.”

Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman was less confident, saying in a statement: “We are hopeful that we will win.”

Observers say a that defeat would be a significant setback for a prime minister who they say has enjoyed an extended honeymoon with voters since his landslide general election victory.

Modi needs to win state elections in coming years to gain control of both houses of the national legislature, where he is attempting to push through reforms on land acquisition, tax and other issues to revive India’s economy.

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