New Delhi, April 10 :
Delhi registered its highest voter turnout Thursday in about three decades at 64.77 percent in a largely triangular contest for its seven parliamentary seats. Balloting was peaceful with no “untoward incident” reported.
Delhi had recorded percentage of 64.77 percent till evening Thursday, an official of Delhi Election Commission told IANS. The poll percentage was nearly 13 percent above the poll percentage recorded in the capital in the last Lok Sabha election in 2009.
The high voter turnout appeared as much an outcome of concerted effort by the Election Commission to enthuse voters, particularly the young and first-timers, to exercise their franchise as of the extension in timing of voting by two hours.
The polling began at 7 a.m. and ended officially at 6 pm at the capital’s 11,763 polling stations. Some booths saw queues right at the start of voting as morning walkers turned up. Rows of people could also be seen in the afternoon as men and women – the elderly included – turned up in large numbers.
The polling percentage was 64.88 percent in 1984, while Delhi saw 51.85 polling percentage in 2009. In 2004 it was even lower at 47.09 percent. In the Delhi assembly elections in November, the voter turnout was 66 percent.
In the 1977 general election, held after the lifting of the authoritarian 18-month emergency rule of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, Delhi recorded 71.31 percent voter turnout.
Delhi poll panel officials said that the highest poll percentage was recorded in North East Delhi constituency at 67.08 percent. They said East Delhi recorded 65.59 percent polling, West Delhi (65.64), Chandni Chowk (66.88), North West Delhi (61.38), New Delhi (65.03) and South Delhi (62.67).
Voter enthusiasm was evident in both middle class and working class areas in Delhi. In some places, the queues snaked out of the school buildings where polling stations were set up. Even affluent areas, which are usually lethargic vis-a-vis elections, reported heavy polling.
“The high voter turnout was because of the awareness campaign started by the election commission since the Delhi assembly polls in Dec 2013,” said chief electoral officer Vijay Dev.
A staggering 150 candidates, most of whom were there for the record, are in the fray in Delhi, which is seen as bellwether of national results.
With the emergence of the AAP, Delhi witnessed largely a triangular fight. Bahujan Samaj Party and Trinamool Congress were among parties that put up candidates in the fray.
The Delhi battle is critical for the Congress, which won all seven Lok Sabha seats in 2009 but was drubbed in the assembly polls December last. The results are significant for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has set itself a target of getting at least 272 seats in campaign led by Narendra Modi.
Delhi is also crucial for the Aam Aadmi Party, which has to prove that its support base has not eroded since its 49-day minority government in Delhi went out of office Feb 14.
Among the early voters were Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and BJP’s Harsh Vardhan, who is contesting from Chandni Chowk.
While Sonia and Rahul Gandhi did not talk to the media, Priyanka Gandhi, who came to vote with husband Robert Vadra, said there is “no Modi wave in the country”.
On his part, Kejriwal said after casting his vote in Tilak Marg: “We are confident that we will win all the seven seats. We are sure that the youth and others will vote for us.”
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi expressed confidence about the party’s prospects.
“Today, the electorate of Delhi is missing the good old days of Congress which had done a lot of work in the last 15 years (of its rule in Delhi),” Singhvi said.
Law Minister Kapil Sibal voiced confidence of the party winning all the seats.
“Every election is a challenge. But this time the election is not being fought on issues but has become an advertisement-driven election. People this time know who they want to vote for,” Sibal told reporters.
BJP leaders also expressed confidence about victory.
“Modi wave is a reality… both the rural and urban voters are with us,” BJP candidate from New Delhi Meenakshi Lekhi told IANS.
“We are going to have 7-0 victory,” said Harsh Vardhan, the chief of Delhi BJP.
There were 7,057,648 male and 5,657,785 female voters besides 839 ‘others’, or the transgender community.
Police officials said the polling was peaceful. “The polling was peaceful throughout Delhi and no untoward incident reported from any polling station,” Delhi police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat told IANS.