In a litmus test for the ruling Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year,Delhi recorded its highest voter turnout when 66 per cent of its 1.2 crore electorate,shrugging off the lazy-voter label,headed to the booths on Wednesday to elect a new state government.
Some 1.7 lakh people were still in queues outside booths in tony parts of the city and in some of its poorest neighbourhoods at 5 pm,the official deadline for voting to close.
The Election Commission,in an unprecedented gesture,announced extension of voting time. The last vote was cast at 9.30 pm in the Okhla Assembly constituency,four-and-half hours after the deadline.
The stunning turnout eclipsed the 1993 record of 61.75 per cent when Delhi elected its first government.
The turnout has been around 66 per cent… The young have broken all stereotypes. They want to vote, Delhi Chief Electoral officer Vijay Dev told reporters. Votes will be counted on Sunday.
The heavy turnout surprised parties and pundits,and each interpreted it differently. Congress rival BJP said it was a vote against the ruling party Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office while debutant Aam Aadmi Party claimed the turnout reflected the peoples anger against mainstream parties and eagerness for a change. Asked about the heavy voting,Dikshit appeared defensive,saying it was a good sign and representative of participatory democracy.
From upmarket Greater Kailash to rural Badli,Karol Bagh to Burari,Rajouri Garden to Seemapuri,people lined up and waited for hours outside booths.
Greater Kailash: 65.8 per cent (54.3 per cent in 2008); Congress candidate Virender Kasana said: The increase is due to the young voters turning out in greater numbers. The AAP has admittedly pulled them in,this is to the detriment of other parties. Some were new additions,and we are not sure where these votes will go.
Trilokpuri: 68.3 per cent (59.9 per cent in 2008); Sunil Kumar of BJP said: People have responded to the call of Narendra Modi and want to change the face of the national capital.
Malviya Nagar: 65.4 per cent (55.9 per cent in 2008); Somnath Bharti of the AAP said: This great increase in numbers is because of the AAPs entry. So many people were ignored by the Congress and BJP over the years. They have voted for for change.
Burari: 68 per cent (55.9 per cent in 2008); Congress candidate Deepak Tyagi said: This years addition has been the silent voter. No way to tell which way is the wind blowing. I am surprised by the inroads the AAP has made.
New Delhi: 65.5 per cent (56.2 per cent in 2008); One contest which has been closely tracked Sheila Dikshit versus Arvind Kejriwal versus Vijender Gupta.
Gokalpur (SC): 71.1 per cent (61.6 per cent in 2008); It is BSP versus Congress versus BJP versus AAP in this reserved constituency.
Karol Bagh: 66.3 per cent (59.6 per cent in 2008); Madan Khorwal of the Congress said: The numbers have gone up because of the awareness campaign by the Election Commission. Some of the new votes have gone to the AAP. It cannot be denied that these elections will be closely run and are a three-way battle.
Badli: 59.4 per cent (57.1 per cent in 2008); Amrish Singh Gautam of the Congress said: The AAP is possibly a factor. Under Sheila Dikshit,we have become a world-class city. People want to see more this,not some civil militia like AAP.
Rajouri Garden: 68.3 per cent (62 per cent in 2008); Dhanwati Chandela of the Congress is locked in a fight with SAD candidate Manjinder Singh Sirsa,the richest candidate in the fray. The AAP decided not to back its candidate Prit Pal Singh,saying it had detected an old case he allegedly concealed.
Seemapuri (SC): 71.4 per cent (62.4 per cent in 2008); It is BSP versus Congress versus BJP versus AAP in this reserved constituency.