New Delhi, Dec 4 :
Delhi, which witnessed a triangular contest for the first time, voted enthusiastically in a crucial assembly election watched eagerly nationwide ahead of the 2014 national polls.
Over 66 percent of the Delhi’s 11.9 million electors, including many VIPs, cast ballot till 6 p.m. to elect a new 70-member house from amongst 810 candidates. Polling was way up from 57.58 percent in 2008.
Poll panel officials said voting could finally be a record 70 percent as the EC extended voting time till 6.30 p.m. to accommodate over one lakh people standing in queues at booths.
Results, which will be out Dec 8, could have a role in deciding who gets to rule India in the Lok Sabha polls next year.
The BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi on his Twitter account said: “We have seen yet another successful demonstration of the strength of our democracy over the past few weeks. Congrats to the Indian voter! I congratulate Election Commission of India for spearheading a spectacular effort in conducting the polls.”
Prominent early voters included Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi accompanied by her husband Robert Vadra also voted.
The entry of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), seen by many as a spoiler in the decades old direct battle of ballot between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), added to enthusiasm among voters.
The prestigious New Delhi constituency, where Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit of the Congress and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal are battling it out, polling was 75 percent – up from 66 percent in 2008.
The New Delhi constituency also became the first in city to have a paper trail which enables voters to verify if their vote has been recorded correctly.
Burari in north Delhi had the highest number of candidates at 23, while Patel Nagar in West Delhi had just four contestants.
Many Bollywood celebrities like Neha Dhupia, Aditi Rao Hydari and Dia Mirza tweeted to persuade Delhiites to step out and vote.
There were some glitches too.
At K. Kamraj Marg polling station in New Delhi area, former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had to wait for at least an hour to cast his vote due to a faulty Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).
A minor scuffle occurred at the Mandir Marg polling station in New Delhi as Congress workers objected to AAP’s supporters wearing white Gandhi caps.
The Delhi poll ends the month long phase of assembly elections in five states.
The polling figures in the four other states where elections to assemblies were held – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Chhattisgarh – were over 70 percent. Mizoram notched 82 percent.
Each party in the fray claimed victory.
Three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit banked on development done by her government. “I am hopeful that people will vote for development and the work done by us in the last 15 years,” she said.
The poll was a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP, said Dikshit. Rahul Gandhi supported her: “Sheila Dikshit has done a lot of good work for Delhi, so she will do well.”
BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan claimed his party was ahead of both the Congress and AAP.
“BJP is far ahead of the Congress and the AAP. It is the Congress and the AAP who are contesting for the second position. Nobody can make a dent in our vote bank,” Harsh Vardhan told reporters after casting his vote in the Krishna Nagar constituency.
Kejriwal, who has promised to end corruption and slash electricity and water tariffs, too sounded confident.
“People are ready, they have made up their mind to remove the corrupt. I am very confident of the results. It will not be my victory but that of the people,” he said.
However, many pre-poll surveys have predicted a hung assembly for Delhi.