New Delhi: After two weeks of aggressive campaigning, Delhi on Saturday saw 61.5 per cent of the total 1.47 crore voters turning up to exercise their franchise for the Assembly elections. The city had witnessed the highest-ever voter turnout of 67 per cent in the 2015 Assembly polls in which Aam Aadmi Party had scripted history by winning 67 of the 70 seats.
After the polling, the exit polls predicted a major victory for chief minister Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP. The India Today-Axis poll predicted 59-68 seats for the AAP and 2-11 for the BJP, while the ABP-CVoter put the Delhi’s ruling party’s tally at anywhere between 49 and 63, and that of its main rival between five to 19.
Almost all exit polls predicted little change in the fortunes of the Congress, which ruled the city between 1998 and 2013 but drew a blank in the 2015 polls. The Times Now-Ipsos exit poll predicted that Mr Kejriwal will retain power with the AAP winning 47 seats against 23 for the BJP.
The Republic-Jan ki Baat survey gave the AAP 48-61 seats and the BJP 9-21 seats. The TV9 Bharatvarsh-Cicero predicted 52-64 seats for the AAP and 6-16 for the BJP. An exit poll put out by Neta-NewsX said the AAP may win 53-57 seats and the BJP 11-17.
According to the India Today-Axis poll, the AAP is likely to get 56 per cent vote share in the Delhi Assembly polls, while the BJP, it said, is set to receive 35 per cent vote share and the Congress is likely to lag behind at 5 per cent. Contrary to what most exit polls were predicting, BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh had a completely different prediction, claiming 50 seats for the BJP and 16 seats for the AAP. Parvesh, the son of former chief minister Sahib Singh Varma, had called Mr Kejriwal a “terrorist” during campaigning. Later in the evening, both the AAP and the BJP called internal meetings. While the AAP discussed the security of the Electronic Voting Machines, the BJP leadership deliberated upon the possible outcome of the polls.
Mr Kejriwal held the meeting at his residence in which deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, Prashant Kishor, Sanjay Singh and Gopal Rai were present.
AAP leader Atishi, reacting to the “sweep” predicted for AAP, said that voters recognised that it’s the state government’s responsibility to provide the electorate with education, healthcare, and infrastructure facilities.
After the polling, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia took to Twitter to congratulate party workers for their hard work, saying the election is “proof” of “our strong and selfless relationship”.
“This election is proof of how selfless and strong our relationship is. We are winning by a huge margin,” he tweeted.
To ensure polling goes off peacefully across the city, Delhi Police and paramilitary personnel conducted flag marches in sensitive areas of Brij Puri, Kalyanpuri, Trilokpuri, Seemapuri, Khajuri Khass, Jaffrabad, Mustafabad, Krishna Nagar and Mayur Vihar in northeast Delhi, Shahdara and other east Delhi areas.
Only 14.75 per cent voters turned up in the first three hours of voting which began at 8 am. The voter turnout, however, improved after 2 pm when people queued up in large numbers to exercise their franchise.
Most of the Muslim dominated constituencies reportedly recorded the highest voter turnout. While Mustafabad in northeast Delhi recorded about 67 per cent voter turnout, Matia Mahal in the Walled City that saw anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests, recorded a turnout of about 66 per cent. In 2015, Mustafabad was one of the three seats won by BJP, with Jagdish Pradhan defeating two-time Congress MLA Hasan Ahmed.
Okhla, which houses Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of anti-CAA protests that was made into an aggressive poll issue by the BJP, saw 50.05 per cent turnout.
Women protesters at Shaheen Bagh, who are on a dharna for the past 55 days against the CAA, voted in batches so that the agitation remained unaffected. While some of the women voted in the morning, others got their fingers inked in the afternoon and the remaining in the evening.
Mr Kejriwal, who along with his wife Sunita and son Pulkit, voted at a polling booth in Civil Lines area, said he was hopeful that the AAP would form the government in Delhi for the third time. He said that the people of Delhi will vote on the basis of the work done by the AAP government. Asked whether his father could again become the chief minister, Pulkit, who voted for the first time, said, “Whoever people choose will become the chief minister of Delhi.”
As the city participated in the “festival of democracy, some citizens had to return with a heavy heart as they found their names missing from the voters list.
At Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of the anti-CAA protest, some voters complained about deletion of their names from the voters list. “A few voters could not cast their votes in Shaheen Bagh under the Okhla constituency as their names were either found deleted or incorrect in the voters list,” said a poll staff on duty.