New Delhi to head to polls in strength test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP

It is expected to be a tightly contested election between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the local grass roots Aam Aadmi Party

Delhi Chief Minister and leader of India's Aam Admi Party (AAP) Arvind Kejriwal, gestures before releasing the 'Kejriwal Ka Guarantee Card' promising improvements on electricity, drinking water and women safety, ahead of Delhi Assembly Elections 2020, in New Delhi on January 19, 2020. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)
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Millions of New Delhi residents will vote this week in what is expected to be a tightly contested election between Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and the local grass roots Aam Aadmi Party.

Arvind Kejriwal, a former anti-­corruption activist, led the party to a thumping victory against the BJP in the New Delhi Assembly election in 2015.

About 14 million people will cast their ballots in the latest electionwhich will be held on Saturday, with the results expected three days laterto decide between more than 650 candidates vying for seats in the city's 70-member assembly.

The rival parties, which include Congress, have promised to deliver improvements such as better roads, schools and health care, as well as cleaner air for the world's most polluted capital.

The Hindu nationalist BJP has thrown all of its weight behind its candidates to oust Mr Kejriwal, whose centre-left party has focused on welfare initiatives for the residents of New Delhi, which has a large migrant population.

The local election is a key test for Mr Modi, who convincingly won a general election last year but failed to repeat that success in two regional polls.

His party has not announced a chief ministerial candidate and is contesting the election under Mr Modi's name, with the campaign led by the minister of home affairs Amit Shah. He has focused on ending the protests against India's anti-­citizenship law, a movement that began three months ago.

Demonstrators claim the law is anti-Muslim because it offers amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

New Delhi is at the heart of the nationwide protests, with the Delhi-Noida road having been blocked by demonstrators for more than a month.

Mr Shah says the AAP supports the protest movement

and claims that the party has failed to fulfil its election promises.

"I have never seen a liar as big as Mr Kejriwal in 56 years ... mark my words, the people of Delhi will teach him a lesson for not keeping his promises," Mr Shah said at a rally.

Delhi,as a capital territory, is not a fully fledged state and while the local government looks after civic amenities, important areas such as policing and land are under the control of the federal government.

Mr Kejriwal, 51, has campaigned for Delhi's statehood, as well as

offering free bus travel to all women and subsidised electricity and water to millions of households.

He promised to extend the free bus travel initiative to students if re-elected.

After large anti-corruption protests were held in Delhi

, Mr Kejriwal won 67 seats in the assembly in 2015, with the BJP winning the other three.

Sanjay Kumar, political analyst and director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said the BJP's nationalist campaign would not be enough to swing the result in its favour.

"Just on the issues of nationalism and terrorism, they won't be able to win back voters," Mr Kumar told The National.