Counting of votes began this morning for the high-stakes Delhi municipal polls in which over 71 lakh electorates exercised their franchise to choose 270 ward councillors for three corporations.
The elections, which witnessed a fierce battle of ballots among the ruling BJP, the Congress and the AAP, were held on Sunday and today’s results and are likely to have political ramifications beyond the national capital’s borders.
The Delhi State Election Commission has made all the arrangements to carry out the exercise spread over 35 counting centres, that began at 8 AM.
A high-octane campaigning was witnessed during the campaigning by the three major players and various other smaller parties who are in the fray. The polls saw a voter turnout of 53.58 per cent, a shade higher than the 2012 MCD elections.
The BJP, seeking to retain the turf it has held for the last 10 years, has exuded confidence of performing extremely well.
The Congress buoyed by its increased vote share in the recently held Rajouri Garden bypoll, in which it finished second, is hoping for a comeback.
While the AAP is seeking to wrest power from the BJP, which it has been cornering over “corruption, sanitation issues and administrative mismanagement”.
All the three parties are thus expecting a favourable mandate, even as an exit poll has predicted a “landslide victory” for the BJP.
The verdict is expected to reshape the political equations in the country’s power capital.
The result will also determine whether the sway of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, which had stunned all by bagging 67 seats out of 70 in the 2015 Delhi Assembly polls, still prevails and will the party be able to put behind its humiliating Rajouri Garden bypoll defeat.
Kejriwal’s party had also suffered a defeat in Punjab and a whitewash in Goa Assembly polls earlier this year.
However, the AAP chief refused to acknowledge the bye-election verdict as a “trailer of the MCD polls”.
He had on Monday warned of launching a “movement” if the MCD exit poll claim, which have predicted a BJP sweep, come true.
The BJP has fielded 267 candidates while the AAP has fielded candidates in all 272 wards.
The Congress, which banked on its big guns during campaigning to shore up its fortune, despite infighting, has 271 candidates in the fray.
The polling was held in 270 of the 272 wards under the three municipal corporations. The election to two wards have been postponed due to the death of candidates.
While the BJP’s move to field new candidates was seen as a strategy to counter anti-incumbency, the party claimed it was to “give opportunity to the next generation”.
The saffron party is betting big on the contest.
Addressing booth-level workers during the campaigning, party chief Amit Shahhad said a favourable verdict in the MCD polls could be a stepping stone to victory in the next Delhi Assembly elections.
Incidentally, in May last year, bypolls to 13 wards were held, in which the AAP had finished on the top with five seats, followed by the Congress with 4 and the BJP at 3.
One seat had gone to an independent candidate.
As per the records of the Delhi poll commission, the polling percentage in 2012 was 53.43 per cent, highest in the last 15 years. The 2012 civic polls were also the first elections after the trifurcation of the MCD into the NDMC, the SDMC and the EDMC in the same year.
There are 1,004 candidates vying in the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) area, 985 in South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and 548 in East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC).
The BSP and the JD(U) have fielded 211 and 95 candidates respectively while the SP has entered the fray with 28.
As many as 71,39,994 votes were cast on April 23. South Delhi polled a maximum of 26,87,685 votes, followed by North Delhi at 26,80,011. East Delhi polled 17,72,298 votes.
Over 1.32 crore electorates 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.
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.
This was the first civic poll after the latest delimitation in which the civic wards were redrawn.