Delhi broke all previous polling records on Wednesday with a voter turnout of more than 67%, shattering its image of a city of apathetic and indifferent voters with it.
A combination picture of Delhi CM hopefuls: Arvind Kejriwal, Sheila Dikshit and Harsh Vardhan. (HT Photo)
The highest voter turnout witnessed in an election for the Delhi Assembly till Wednesday, was 61.75% in 1993. With 67% turnout till 9pm and many still queued to cast their vote, Wednesday's record could well go on to break the record of highest turnout for any election in Delhi ever. That record is at present held by the turnout of 69.49% in 1967 for Lok Sabha polls.
On Wednesday, Delhi voted in record numbers not only from the not-so-urbane areas that are traditionally known for strong voter turnouts but also from areas such as Greater Kailash and Defence Colony, which saw turnout of nearly 70%.
The enthusiasm shown by Delhiites on Wednesday was in the making for the last one year. Incidents, such as the December 16 gang rape last year, had spurred to people to have their say and more aware of their rights. Not surprisingly, most voters on Wednesday said that the biggest issues on their mind were inflation and the safety of women.
The Delhi Electoral Office also played a big role in motivating voters from sections of the society. Its massive campaign, which involved rock concerts, cycle rallies, exhibitions and other voter outreach programmes began in 2012.
"I want to show Delhi's people sincere gratitude for an incident free election and a high turnout that has broken all previous records," said Delhi's Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev. "The youth of Delhi has broken all old stereotypes. I hope the final figure touches 70%," he said.
Dev said that voter awareness campaign, with an eye on the general election slated next year, will continue with particularly the youth in mind.
If exit polls are any indication to go by, chief minister Sheila Dikshit is going to lose the Capital after 15 years. The surveys are divided over the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party. While two organisations have predicted that the BJP will easily form its government in the 70-member house, three other surveys predict it emerging as the single largest party but falling short of the simple majority.
The ORG-India Today exit poll claim the BJP is likely to form the government with 41 seats while the ABP -Nielsen gives it 37 seats. The other three surveys - News 24 - Chanakya , Times Now-C Voter and C Fore-News Nation - have given the saffron party 29 to 34 seats. The exit polls claim they Congress will be the second largest party with 10-21 seats while political greenhorn Aam Aadmi Party may get 6-31 seats.
Delhi has witnessed a record voter turnout this time with some assembly segments reported close to 75% voting. Political analysts said a high voter turnout generally reflects that the electorate have voted against the incumbent government. That's the reason why the Congress' seat share is likely to go down drastically and its seats may get distributed between its main political rival BJP and debutant AAP.
There were some reports of malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVM) in some parts of the city but they were rectified, election officials said.
The EVM at polling booth in Aurangazeb Lane, where Rahul cast his vote, malfunctioned when polling began.
In Jungpura, Badli and Krishna Nagar constituencies, some voters complained that their names had been struck from the electoral rolls and they could not vote.
Elaborate security arrangements were made in the capital with deployment of 32,801 personnel of Delhi Police and 10,700 central paramilitary force personnel to ensure peaceful elections.
The voting began at 8am at 11,753 polling booths out of which 630 have been identified as critical and hyper critical.
The Election Commission has appealed to people not to carry mobile phones while going to cast their votes.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi casts his vote at Aurangzeb Lane polling booth for Delhi polls in New Delhi. (Ajay Aggarwal/ HT photo)
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Number game A total of 1.19 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise, out of which 66.11 lakh are men and 53.20 lakh are women. The number of first time voters is 4.05 lakh.
810 candidates are in the fray in the three-cornered contest between Congress, BJP and AAP.
While BJP has fielded candidates in 66 constituencies Congress and AAP are contesting from all 70 seats. BSP, which was the third largest party in last assembly election, has fielded candidates in 69 seats, NCP in nine and Samajwadi Party in 27 seats.
A total of 224 independents are also in the fray.
The Delhi vote concludes the state polls this year. The state elections are setting the tone and serving as a virtual semi-final for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal casts his vote at a polling station in New Delhi. (Reuters photo)
TUG OF WAR
While the Congress is looking to extend its winning streak with chief minister Dikshit eyeing a fourth consecutive term, the BJP is keen to end its 15-year power drought in the national capital.
It is, however, Kejriwal’s debuting AAP that seems to have stirred the pot. It is expected to dent the vote bank of its political rivals who are veterans in the field.
The AAP's extensive and focussed grassroots campaign has helped the party to make its presence felt and turn it into a real triangular contest. With both Dikshit and Kejriwal having filed their nomination from New Delhi, the stage is set for a riveting contest in that constituency.
The BJP has put up its former Delhi unit chief Gupta for the seat to make the contest triangular.
The polls in Delhi are keenly watched as it is the centre of the country's political power and has, many times in the past, served as a pointer to the Lok Sabha polls.
Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi look on after casting their votes in in New Delhi. (AFP photo)
The BJP threw in all its might with the party's prime ministerial candidate and lead campaigner Narendra Modi holding five rallies in the metropolis.
Party sources said that 230 public meetings were held by its leaders in the past 10 days.
With the assembly polls to be followed by the Lok Sabha elections about six months later and a few of its senior leaders apparently interested in contesting from Delhi in the general elections, the BJP has tried not to leave anything to chance.
A victory in Delhi is crucial for the Congress to balance against its probable loss to the BJP in some other states which have gone to the polls in this round of assembly elections.
With a number of surveys having predicted BJP victories in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and a tight race in Chhattisgarh, the Congress is pinning a lot of hopes on winning Delhi.
People stand in queues at a polling station to cast their votes in Chhatarpur. (PTI photo)
The elections are crucial for the AAP for its ambitions to expand its political base to other parts of the country.
A good showing in Delhi will enhance its electoral appeal while a poor showing could dampen the spirits of its growing rank of supporters, particularly the young, the working class and sections of the middle class.
The counting of the ballots cast in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will take place December 8 and in Mizoram December 9.
(With inputs from HT Correspondents and agencies)