Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was on Monday hailed a hero by colleagues and analysts for steering the stunning third-term victory of the Congress, which will now rule the Capital for five more years.
Even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) admitted that Dikshit, 70, had proved to be the winner in contrast to their own chief ministerial candidate Vijay Kumar Malhotra, otherwise a political veteran.
For once, even Congress leaders usually crediting party chief Sonia Gandhi for all electoral victories were generous in their praise of the chief minister, who won from the New Delhi constituency by defeating her BJP rival Vijay Jolly by a margin of over 10,000 votes.
Congress veteran Karan Singh, among the first to visit Dikshit's residence as the results came in, said: "In my recent memory I do not remember when an incumbent chief minister has won three terms."
"Sheila Dikshit was the face in Delhi. The verdict is a vote for the Congress and definitely in favour of Sheila. Transforming Delhi into a modern metropolis brought people close to the Congress."
Despite going to the polls only days after terrorists struck in Mumbai, the Congress bagged close to 40 seats in the 70-member assembly.
Election Commission officials said the Congress had garnered 44.5 per cent of all valid votes, leaving the BJP at a second spot with 38.2 per cent and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) - which was expected to undercut the Congress - with nearly 12 per cent votes.
BJP president Rajnath Singh was candid enough to admit: "The results in Delhi have been quite disappointing... shocking."
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar blamed "wrong selection of candidates" for the debacle in the Indian capital. But he defended the choice of Malhotra as the chief ministerial choice. "He is a very senior leader."
Javadekar's colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, said he could not fathom the reason behind the BJP's poor performance in Delhi, where power has eluded the party for 10 long years.
BJP election strategist Arun Jaitley gave the credit for the Congress win in Delhi to Dikshit. "It is her personal win. I congratulate her."
A happy Dikshit thanked Delhi's voters for giving the Congress a third five-year term in a row -- a record of sorts.
"It is great and I wholeheartedly thank the Delhi people for showing their affection and belief in the party. We will work harder to keep up to your (people's) expectations," she told reporters at her residence.
Dikshit, however, parried queries about her being sworn in as Delhi's next chief minister.
"Let's see, it is the party high command that will take a call on it," Dikshit added even as she waved a V sign for victory.
But when party activists began bursting firecrackers and beating drums outside her official residence, she sent a polite word to them to disperse -- in deference to the victims of the Mumbai terror bombings.
Later, she again addressed the media: "Despite 10 years of rule, people have reposed faith in the Congress. They did so on the issue of development (of the city). There was an attempt to exploit the issue of terrorism. People rejected that."
Political analyst GVL Narasimha Rao said the credit for the Congress victory in Delhi chiefly went to Dikshit, a Sonia Gandhi loyalist who does not enjoy the support of all sections of the party in the city.
Rao admitted that the results may have been different had the chief ministerial candidate projected by the BJP been somebody as suave as Arun Jaitley instead of Malhotra.