In a near repeat of the strong turnout during the Assembly elections four months ago, 64.77 per cent of votes were cast for seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi by 6 pm Thursday but officials said this count was likely to rise since people were still in queues at several polling stations well past the deadline.
Since morning, people trooped out in numbers to cast votes, many before breakfast to beat the heat. As the day wore on, it became increasingly clear that the contest was narrowing down to a straight fight between the BJP and AAP at most places. The Congress, routed in the Assembly elections, appeared to be trailing, its polling agents missing at several stations.
The Lok Sabha elections in Delhi will test whether the AAP support base has eroded somewhat or if there’s any substance in BJP claims of a ‘Modi wave’. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the overall voting percentage in Delhi was 52.3 per cent. This increased to 66 per cent in the December 2013 Assembly elections.
Most BJP supporters said prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was the reason why their party would get votes. To many, it made no difference who the local candidate was. Emerging from a polling station in Safdarjung Enclave, a woman announced she had “voted for the PM candidate” but had no idea who was the local party candidate.
AAP volunteers said they were encouraged by the “heavy turnout” in Muslim majority areas of the city, especially in central and south Delhi. Women dominated queues in several areas of Seelampur, Jafrabad, Babarpur. Many women said their families had asked them to go out and vote. “My husband ensured that I reached the polling booth with the other women of our neighbourhood,” a woman from Jafrabad said.
Accompanied by sitting MP Ajay Maken and Delhi Congress leader Arvinder Singh Lovely, Sonia Gandhi showed up at Nirman Bhavan to cast her vote. Maken was unperturbed by reports of the contest moving from a triangular fight to a straight one between the BJP and AAP. “People who voted for Kejriwal (in the Assembly elections) were traditional Congress voters who will vote for us this time,” he said.
Kejriwal was accompanied by his wife and parents when he went to the College of Art on Tilak Marg to cast his vote. “One has already lost the election while the other is considering himself the future PM. But people of the country will decide,” he said.