New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was routed in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) election results declared Wednesday, winning only 48 seats in the three civic bodies.

Its only consolation was that it relegated Congress to the third position, cementing its position as the principal challenger to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Not only does this draw the battle lines for the 2020 election to the state assembly, it also puts the spotlight on the leadership of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Especially since this comes in the backdrop of a disastrous campaign in the just concluded elections to the Punjab and Goa assemblies—in the latter where the party drew a blank, 38 of its 39 candidates performed so poorly that they lost their deposits.

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This was the first time AAP had contested elections in all the 272 seats spread across three municipal corporations—North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC).

Worryingly for the party, its vote share dropped dramatically from its record performance in 2015 when it managed an all but clean sweep of the 70 seats in the Delhi assembly election. Compared to the 45% vote share it managed in 2015, AAP secured only 23.4% in EDMC, 27.88% in NDMC and 26.44% in SDMC.

Senior party leaders, however, shrugged off the defeat, alleging it was because of tampering of the electronic voting machines (EVM).

“This isn’t a Modi wave, this is an EVM wave," Gopal Rai, senior AAP leader and a Delhi cabinet minister, said, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The same happened in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It is a major threat against democracy. The rights of the electorate will have to be ensured. The BJP wants to demolish democracy," Gopal Rai, senior AAP leader and Delhi cabinet minister, said.

Deputy chief minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia argued similarly, claiming, “EVM tampering is such a bitter truth of our country’s democracy."

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The defeat was followed by a series of resignations of senior party leaders including AAP Delhi president Dilip Pandey and legislator Alka Lamba who owned responsibility for the loss.

“People’s anger against the AAP government is a lot more than their disappointment with the non-performance of the BJP-led MCD," Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav told reporters. Yadav was at one time a senior leader in the AAP.

A win the MCD elections was important for the AAP as the bodies are responsible for the civic administration of the city-state. Delhi being a special state, elected governments do not have authority over matters regarding land, and law and order which come under the central home ministry.

Anna Hazare, anti-corruption activist and former mentor of Kejriwal, said, “It is not right to blame the EVM after polling has taken place. If Delhi could have been made into a model, then the country would watch but instead they went looking at states like Goa, Punjab."

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