NEW DELHI – Residents of India's capital voted Saturday in a crucial state election in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party sought to regain power after a 22-year gap and major victories in a national vote.
About 57% of the 14.6 million registered voters lined up in queues across New Delhi to cast ballots, India’s election commission said.
Results will be declared on Tuesday.
The polls pit Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party against the incumbent Aam Aadmi Party, or “common man's” party, whose pro-poor policies have focused on fixing state-run schools and providing free health care and bus fares for women during the five years in power.
The BJP campaign reopened old wounds in the Hindu-Muslim divide and treated the election as a referendum on nearly two months of protests across India against a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims.
The law fast-tracks naturalization for non-Muslim migrants from neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who are living in the country illegally. Modi’s BJP also hopes to garner Hindu votes for ending semi-autonomy of Muslim-majority Kashmir last summer and turning the disputed region into two federally governed territories amid security lockdown.
Both of those actions have won him praise from supporters but little reward at the polls. BJP lost two important state elections last year.
“They (BJP) must be given a jolt. We are poor, but we are also humans. They only talk about divisions,” said Shabnam Mukhtar, a housewife at Shaheen Bagh, a working-class neighborhood where Muslim women have staged a sit-in for two months to protest the citizenship law.