The high-stakes Delhi municipal polls on Sunday saw a voter turnout of 53.58 per cent that surpassed the 2012 figure of 53.43, even as rancour over "faulty EVMs" coloured the entire exercise with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal railing at the state election body.
The final tally of votes came in just before midnight, as a ward in south Delhi witnessed "extremely brisk voting" late in the evening.
The final vote percentage was 53.58, a senior State Election Commission official said. As per the records of the Delhi poll commission, the polling percentage in 2012 was 53.43 per cent, which was the highest in 15 years.
As the dust settled, the incumbent BJP, which based its campaign largely on the image and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, appeared confident of pulling off a victory, two years after the assembly poll debacle. The BJP and the Congress had then bagged 138 and 54 seats respectively.
This time, the counting will be held on April 26. As many as 71,39,994 votes were polled today in a contest that had the BJP, the Congress and the AAP engaged in a fierce battle. "South Delhi polled maximum 26,87,685 votes, followed by North Delhi at 26,80,011 and East Delhi finished at 17,72,298," he said.
Over 1.32 crore electorate were eligible to vote in the polls. While the male vote share stood at 54.04 per cent, the figure for women was pegged at 53.02. 93 votes were polled by people belonging to the other category. Srivastava told a press conference that North Delhi Municipal Corporation's Bakhtawarpur ward recorded the highest voter turnout at over 68 per cent, while south Delhi's Lado Sarai registered the least turnout at 39 per cent.
Despite a sluggish start, as the day progressed and the heat waned towards the afternoon, people, including the women and the elderly, trooped out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.
The AAP, which the exit polls suggested was headed for a drubbing, led the charge against the commission over technical glitches in EVMs, which the party has claimed can be "tampered with". Kejriwal alleged in a tweet, "Reports from all over Delhi of EVM malfunction, people wid voter slips not allowed to vote. What is SEC doing? (sic)." Srivastava said 18 electronic voting machines (EVMs) were replaced owing to battery or button-related issues.
Reports from all over Delhi of EVM malfunction, people wid voter slips not allowed to vote. What is SEC doing?— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) April 23, 2017
"Out of 13,000 polling stations, EVMs were changed in only 18 polling stations. It shows our EVMs are unhackable, robust and no wrong can be done," he said.
To a question on allegations that voting slips were not properly distributed in some areas, he said people were welcome to approach the commission with genuine grievances. There were no reports of violence.
However, a candidate of Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj India claimed that he was roughed up by a Congress candidate and his supporters during polling at a booth in Rohini after he tried to stop him from carrying out "bogus voting".
The Congress, desperate to regain some lost ground, said the matter should be probed by the poll watchdog and ensure that people do not have any doubt over the country's democratic process.
"If the chief minister of Delhi has raised some questions on EVMs, and if it has even a bit of truth, then the commission should look into the matter and ensure that the trust of people in the electoral process does not get hit," Jaiveer Shergill of the Congress said. Polling was held in 270 of the 272 wards of the three municipal corporations.
The election to two wards has been postponed due to the death of candidates. A total of 1,32,10,206 voters were entitled to exercise their franchise in electing councillors for the 270 wards falling under the three corporations - NDMC (103), SDMC (104) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (63).
The verdict will determine the standing of the three main players -- the AAP, the BJP and the Congress -- in Delhi and its ripples will be felt beyond the city's borders, as it comes within 10 days of the Rajouri Garden bypoll where the Kejriwal-led party had finished third.
Incidentally, in May last year, bypolls to 13 wards were held, in which the AAP had finished on top with five seats, followed by the Congress with 4, the BJP at 3. One seat had gone to an independent candidate.
(Feature image source: Reuters)