Seven months ago Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, BJP, made history by returning to power with a landslide victory in India's national election. But the latest defeat in Delhi Assembly election is now a big blow to their dream to return to power in the national capital territory.
Outcomes of a state election may not be appropriate to judge their popularity countrywide. But the truth is that the BJP's desperate bid to capture Delhi made the assembly election a "Narendra Modi vs Arvind Kejriwal" contest. The result shattered the BJP's dream as it failed to breach Kejri-wall.
The Aaam Admi Party (AAP)-led by Kejriwal made a hat-trick by winning the polls. The BJP's dream to conquer Delhi got lingered further. The party has been out of power in Delhi for the last 22 years.
Emboldened by victories in the last national polls, the BJP deployed the entire brigade of nationalists in this assembly election to ensure a win. It deputed around 250 of its MPs to grab 70 assembly seats, which was unprecedented in the seven-decade-long history of Indian democracy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held two election rallies, urging people to vote for his party candidates to unseat Kejriwal.
Home Minister Amit Shah, who was the president of the BJP a few weeks ago, made relentless efforts. Like a common party worker, he went door to door and addressed all small and big gatherings in support of the party's candidates.
The firebrand Hindu nationalist Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also addressed 12 election rallies and used Hindu religion sentiments to drum up support for the BJP candidates.
But, all efforts failed to unseat Kejriwal. The only solace is that the BJP's tally improved a little. It managed a win in eight seats.
Seven months ago, the outcomes in the parliamentary election were starkly different. Modi's BJP bagged all seven seats in the national capital territory, a half-state. Kejriwal's party finished third behind Congress. Even its candidates forfeited their deposits in three of the seven seats.
The assembly election appeared as a high-voltage prestigious battle of ballots as it was held hot on the heels of countrywide protests against Modi government over the new citizenship law and the national register of citizens.
Modi government made the law last December to grant fast-tracked citizenship to undocumented migrants from the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan on or before December 2014. The law excluded Muslims.
Across India, people have been protesting the implementation of the new law. Violence erupted in some states, killing more than two dozens of people.
The controversial law also drew global flak. The UN human rights office voiced concerns that the new law is fundamentally discriminatory in nature by excluding Muslims and called for it to be reviewed.
But, Modi government remains adamant to implement the law, paying no heed to the outcry. Modi and his government have been accused of turning India into a Hindu state against the secular character of the world's largest democracy.
During the Delhi assembly polls campaign Modi and the top leaders of his BJP countered the protests.
The party's campaign aggravated Hindu-Muslim relations and positioned the election as a referendum on nearly two months of protests over the draconian law. They also urged voters to rely on the BJP for a "fool-proof national security".
While addressing an election rally Modi also strongly denounced the protests, saying there was a "political design" behind it. "These protests are a conspiracy to divide India. These protests are going to ruin the harmony of the nation," he said.
The election results indicate Delhi people rejected the politics of Modi and his party.
Last December, the BJP also suffered a huge defeat to the Congress-led opposition party in the Jharkhand Assembly election amid nationwide row over the controversial citizenship law.
In 2014, the BJP formed the government in Jharkhand with an alliance with the All Jharkhand Students Union with a combined 43 seats. But in the December election, the BJP contested the election alone and won only 23 seats out of 81.
Despite a sweeping victory in national elections a few months ago, Modi and the BJP faced tougher-than-expected battles in the state polls that followed.
Before Jharkhand the ruling BJP fell short of a clear majority in Maharashtra and Haryana assembly polls in October. In Haryana, a BJP-led coalition eventually formed the government for the second time, but the party lost control of the country's richest state Maharashtra – home to the financial capital Mumbai.
But the defeats in the assembly elections may not change the course of the BJP's politics to play people's religious sentiments for political gains, which is the biggest weapon of the party.
The controversial citizenship law is the latest manifestation of this politics. Modi's government has come up with the law at a time when India's economy is experiencing slowdown.
His government has been accused of using religion cards to hide failure to avert criticism for economic slowdown.
The crucial question is will the BJP reassess its strategy after people said NO to its politics? We will have to wait to know. But political analysts may predict the future is not inspiring.