New Delhi, Dec 4: Delhi did itself proud as it registered a record over 66 percent voter turnout, with young people and even the usually indifferent elite class turning up in large numbers at polling booths, in a largely triangular contest that was watched eagerly nationwide ahead of the 2014 national polls.
Over 66 percent of Delhi’s 11.9 million electors, including many VIPs, cast ballot till 7.30 p.m. to elect a new 70-member house from amongst 810 candidates.
Though, polling was officially over by 5 p.m., but seeing long serpentine queues, including young and old, men and women, outside many polling stations, the state election commission declared that voting will continue till the last person has exercised their franchise.
The exact polling percentage was not available till late Wednesday night.
It was for the first time Delhi has witnessed such an overwhelming response in elections to its assembly.
In the first assembly elections in 1993, Delhi witnessed a turnout of 61.75 percent. In 1998, it recorded the lowest turnout at just over 48 percent voting.
In the 2003 elections, over 53 percent voters cast their ballots, and in 2008, over 57 percent polling was recorded.
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 first one to react to the high voter turnout was BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, who had held six campaign rallies in Delhi.
“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,” he tweeted.
According to experts, the overwhelming response – including from over 400,000 first time voters – indicates that people have cast their ballot for change, better governance and clean leadership.
This, they said, also indicates that the wind is blowing against three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and she could be voted out due to a strong anti-incumbency factor.
South Delhi, that usually records low turnout, saw record voting, especially in Greater Kailash, where nearly 80 percent polling was registered, a record in itself.
The heavy polling brought smiles to the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the debutant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Prominent early voters included Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Dikshit, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan and AAP leader and chief ministerial nominee Arvind Kejriwal.
Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi accompanied by her husband Robert Vadra also voted.
The entry of 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 Dikshit and Kejriwal are battling it out, polling was 74 percent – up from 56 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).
The Delhi poll ends the month long phase of assembly elections in five states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Chhattisgarh. Polling in all these states were over 70 percent, while in Mizoram it notched 82 percent.
Each party in the fray claimed victory.
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.
Rahul Gandhi supported her. “Sheila Dikshit has done a lot of good work for Delhi, so she will do well,” he tweeted.
BJP’s 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,” he 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.