50% vote in Delhi MCD polls, AAP, BJP trade charges
No major glitches in EVMs were reported and the voting passed off peacefully with high security observed at the 3,360 critical booths in 493 locations, where more than 25,000 police personnel, nearly 13,000 home guards and 100 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed, officials said.
A voter turnout of around 50% was recorded in the election to the 250 municipal wards in Delhi on Sunday, the run up to which saw a fierce contest, with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seeking to wrest control of the city’s civic body from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has ruled the municipal corporation for 15 years.
These were the first elections since the Union government decided to dissolve Delhi’s erstwhile municipal corporations for the northern, southern and eastern parts of the Capital, and reunified them into a single Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), whittling down the number of wards from 272 to 250 in the process.
No major glitches in electronic voting machines (EVM) were reported and the voting passed off peacefully with high security observed at the 3,360 critical booths in 493 locations, where more than 25,000 police personnel, nearly 13,000 home guards and 100 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed, officials said.
With these being first major elections after 2020 Delhi riots, every fourth booth was designated to be critical and heavy security was seen in parts of Northeast Delhi, Okhla-Shaheen Bagh as well as parts of Chhatarpur, which recently saw a horrific murder.
There were reports that names of voters in North-East Delhi and some other areas were missing from the voters’ lists.
Election officials said that 50.47% polling was reported by 5.30pm when the voting time ended. However, the figure is likely to rise as many people who reported before 5.30pm and were queued up at the polling booths were casting their votes.
“Voting for 250 wards of MCD elections 2022 was conducted on December 4 and tentative voting percentage at 5.30pm was around 50.47%. Polling continued at some polling stations after 5.30pm where the voters had queued up inside the gates of polling premises before the scheduled time for close of polls at 5.30pm. The exact figure will be announced on Monday after reconciling reports from all sector officers,” an official from the state election commission said requesting anonymity.
Delhi witnessed a voter turnout of 53.55% in 2017 MCD elections, 53.39% in 2012 and 43.24% in the 2007 civic polls. In contrast, the voting turnouts have been much higher in the assembly and parliamentary elections with city registering 62.59% turnout in 2020 and 67.13% in 2015 in state elections, and 67.4% in 2019 and 66.40% in 2014 in Lok Sabha elections. The 14.5 million voters who were eligible to cast their votes have continued with this trend of a relative apathy towards the civic polls in the Capital.
According to election commission data, a total of 1,349 candidates were in the fray. Polling was held from 8am to 5.30pm at 13,638 polling stations, and the votes will be counted on December 7.
The official said that all EVMs will be collected and brought to 42 strong rooms set up across the city under high security. “950 counting parties have been trained to undertake the counting exercise on Wednesday,” the official added.
For Delhi’s residents, no agency holds more influence on their lives than MCD, which registers births, deaths and marriages, clears garbage, oversees primary education, provides health care services, maintains colony roads and runs crematoriums.
With an annual budget of ₹15,200 crore and around 150,000 employees, MCD is usually the first port of call for Delhi’s residents, and a crucial determinant of how India’s arguably most-important Union territory functions.
The campaign revolved around six key issues, including sanitation; particularly flattening garbage dumps that have come to mark the city’s skyline for the past few years; roads and waterlogging; parking; air pollution; and revitalising public spaces.
Bhupender Kumar, a 48-year-old resident of Tehkhand near the Okhla landfill said, “Everyone wants cleanliness but there is a lack of hope regarding its practicality. Everyone has promised to clear the mound in the past as well. Let us see if the issue remains alive even after the elections.”
The polls are crucial for the AAP and its leader Arvind Kejriwal as they seek expansion of the party ahead of 2024 general elections in the country.
A victory in the MCD polls will not only cement AAP’s place in Delhi but will fuel its aspiration to emerge as a serious contender to the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the national political landscape.
The BJP, which deployed its top leaders, including national president JP Nadda, 19 Union ministers including Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goyal and chief ministers of six states in the campaign, is seeking reelection.
While it controlled all three municipal bodies in the Capital for the last 15 years, the party received a drubbing in the 2020 Delhi Assembly polls, winning just eight of the 70 seats.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal urged people to exercise their franchise for an honest establishment in the civic body.
“People should vote for the party that is honest and works. (Vote) for those who focus on the cleanliness of the city and not those who keep creating hurdles,” Kejriwal told reporters after he cast his vote along with his parents, wife and children at a polling booth in Civil Lines.
Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta appeared confident of the party’s victory. “In this election, the Bharatiya Janata Party is coming back to serve the people of Delhi for the fourth time with a clear majority. BJP is an organisation-based party and our workers first campaigned with full dedication and encouraged people to go door to door to vote today. Till noon, there was talk of low polling in Delhi, but after noon our workers went to every house and there was a relative increase in polling percentage,” he said. “People have voted against the scams and false publicity of the Kejriwal government.”
The Congress, which ruled Delhi for 15 years but has faded away since its loss in 2013, is seeking to regain lost turf.
It was during Congress rule with Sheila Dikshit as chief minister that the erstwhile MCD, established in 1958, was trifurcated in 2012.
In the last civic elections held in 2017, the BJP won 181 of the 270 wards. Polling was cancelled on two seats due to death of candidates. The AAP won 48 wards and the Congress 27.
On Sunday, voters at several booths were left disappointed after their names were missing from the voters’ list.
Anil Kumar, the Delhi Congress president, was among the people who could not vote. Kumar said his vote has been shifted but no explanation was provided. “I have also received large number of complaints from other voters whose name was found missing,” he said. Both the Congress and the BJP filed complaints with the state election commission over the missing names.
Among the people who could not find their names in the voter list at the Defence Colony polling station was 71-year-old Puran Singh. “We live near Sewa Nagar Basti near Arya Samaj Mandir. I have visited all the polling centres in the area but I am being turned away at all sites. No one can find my name in the list. It has been intentionally removed,” Singh, who is a daily wage labourer, said.
AAP MLA Vishesh Ravi said that names of 668 voters from SP Mukherjee Market, Faiz Road, were missing. “We have demanded re-election in this booth and strict action for this mess up,” he said.
The state election commission, however, said that the chief electoral officer who is the representative of election commission is entrusted with preparation of electoral rolls. “State election commission only adopts the electoral rolls of ECI on as is where is basis,” the commission said.
Sixty drones were also deployed to maintain law and order in critical and sensitive booths of the national capital.
Apart from a few stray incidents of violations of the model code of conduct and a couple of other scattered incidents of impersonation, the polling remained peaceful throughout the day and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere, the SEC said. “Around 230 calls were received in the Central Control room of Delhi Police on election related issues. Police also seized about 846 litres of liquor on polling day. Three FIRs were registered and three people were arrested. Police also registered 10 cases under preventive action,” the commission officials stated.
Meanwhile, the BJP and the AAP accused each other of violating the model code of conduct during voting.
Praveen Shankar Kapoor, spokesperson of the Delhi unit of BJP alleged that many people were receiving automated calls with appeals to vote for the AAP.
The SEC did not respond to these allegations.