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Is the Modi Honeymoon Over?

A thumping defeat in Delhi should set off warning bells.
Kejriwal supporters were also sending a message to the prime minister.

Kejriwal supporters were also sending a message to the prime minister.

Photographer: Lam Yik Fei

In elections over the weekend, Delhi voters left no doubt about whom they prefer to govern India's capital region. Official results released Tuesday showed that the Aam Aadmi ("Common Man") Party led by populist anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal had swept 67 of the 70 seats in the local legislature -- a record -- and cornered over 50 percent of the vote, a rarity in India’s multi-party, first-past-the-post system. Voters were clearly sending a message. The question is to whom.

Strategists from Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party -- which swept to power nationally in its own landslide last May -- have been quick to insist that the debacle doesn't represent a referendum on the prime minister's nine months in power. And it's true the election was dominated by issues and personalities specific to Delhi. The BJP's local leadership has traditionally been weak; it's failed to win the legislature since 1998.