The two major contenders for the Delhi throne — the Congress and the BJP — appear to have intensified their hunt for allies as the likelihood of a hung Parliament increased after the fourth round of polling on Thursday.
An estimated 57 per cent voters braved the heat to cast their votes for 85 Lok Sabha seats spread across eight states in the largely peaceful polling, barring West Bengal, where four voters were killed in poll violence.
One person died in Rajasthan when security forces opened fire to foil an attempt to capture a booth.
<b1>While West Bengal recorded the highest voting percentage (75 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir capital Srinagar recorded the lowest turnout (24 per cent), mainly due to a boycott call by separatists.
Capital Delhi saw a 50 per cent turnout on a typical summer day. In terms of voting, the city scored over Mumbai, which had seen a mere 41 per cent voting a week back, considered to be lowest since 1977.
President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her children Rahul and Sonia, and Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit were among those who cast their votes in the capital.
The ruling Congress is defending six of the seven seats in Delhi which it had won in 2004. “We are going to do well this time also. The assembly elections held five months back had shown which way the wind is blowing,” Dikshit said.
With voting now over for 457 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats and only 86 seats left for voting on the last round on May 13, the focus has now shifted to post-poll alliances.
The BJP’s managers are counting on Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati to spring a surprise and gravitate towards them. The Uttar Pradesh chief minister is at present inclined towards the so-called Third Front, a loosely knit formation of regional parties propped up by the Left.
Her rival and Samajwadi Party chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav, put forward a pre-condition for those looking for his support. “We will support whoever dismisses the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh,” he said after casting his vote in Mainpuri. The Congress was quick to reject such a demand but kept the door open for the SP. Amar Singh, SP general secretary, also hinted at supporting the Congress.
But, the Left parties appeared to adopt a wait and watch policy. The focus now shifts to the final round next week. The most crucial state in this phase will be Tamil Nadu where all 39 seats will go for polls. Polling for 14 seats in Uttar Pradesh, 11 in West Bengal, 4 in Himachal Pradesh and 5 in Uttarakhand will also be held the same day.