All eyes are on the electrifying electoral battle for Delhi, and which way it will swing. On a sunny Saturday morning, Delhites queued up outside polling booths spread across the city of around 25 million people. There was a palpable sense of enthusiasm among voters, who were unanimous in their craving for a smart city, equipped with world-class infrastructure and higher standard of living.
By 5 pm, 63.46 per cent of 13 million voters had cast their ballots. Chief Election Commissioner H.S Brahma said he expected a 65-70 per cent voter turnout on February 7. 66 per cent had voted in the 2013 assembly elections. If opinion polls are to be believed, a few thousand votes may make a decisive difference.
Over 13.3 million electorate, including more than 200,000 first-time voters, are deciding the fate of 673 candidates for the 70-member Delhi assembly.
It’s a two-cornered contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the ruling coalition at the centre, and Aam Admi Party, which formed the government for 49 days after the 2012 Delhi elections but resigned on grounds that it did not have the required majority to implement the party’s agenda.
Kiran Bedi, a former top cop and the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, tweeted early morning before voting. “Now on my way to all polling booths in my constituency, Krishna Nagar. What an experience.” Rahul Gandhi, Congress vice-president and son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, arrived at the Aurangzeb Road polling booth in the morning to cast his vote, but did not speak with the media. Arvind Kejriwal, a former civil rights activist and the leader of Aam Admi Party (AAP), struck a jubilant note on the microblogging site. “Sources- BJP workers have given up in many places, similar to how cong workers gave up in last elections. They are completely demoralized.”
VoterSpeak: Issues and Preferences
The key issues in the Delhi polls are, according to the voters spoke by India Writes Network, indiawrites.org, access to uninterrupted electricity, decent health care, modern education, controlling inflation, encouraging sanitation drive and building infrastructure, strengthening women security, and increasing employment rate and raising living standard.
Here are few quotes to reflect a sense of vitality, excitement and enthusiasm of Delhi voters:
“I want stable government and good state- centre relationship but no gimmick”- Sanidhya Suri, IT professional, voted for BJP.
“I like Arvind Kejriwal’s clean and honest style of politics”- Rachna Sheoran, software engineer, voted for AAP.
“Hard working and corruption free government is my preference”- R.K. Wadhwa, entrepreneur, voted for BJP.
“I want police reforms so that issues related to women safety can be addressed”- Divya, student, voted for AAP.
I want to give [Arvind] Kejriwal another chance – Rishabh Tripathi, private employee, voted for AAP.
“I want corruption-free government”- Devesh Aggarwal, Voted for BJP.
Impact on national politics
Delhi is witnessing its second election in just over a year following a hung verdict in December 2013, where 16 Delhi assembly seats were decided by a very small margin ranging from 355 votes to 2,891. So there is some justification for opinion polls’ indication for a direct contest between BJP and AAP in Delhi.
Delhi elections are also interesting because the BJP, first time since the national elections, nominated Kiran Bedi as chief ministerial candidate. In recent state elections, the BJP did not nominate any CM candidate and mostly relied on the campaigning ability of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and it worked impressively. Political experts speculate this change in BJP’s election strategy reveals “all is not well” for the BJP.
On the other hand, Arvind Kejriwal’s straight talk on issues like corruption has struck a chord. Kejriwal has impressed many Delhi voters – both the way he thinks and connects with people.
It would be fair to say that the Delhi elections have become a matter of prestige for Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. Delhi is the power centre of the country. A win or loss in Delhi for the BJP could strip Mr Modi of some of the halo of invincibility as his party has won most state elections and done exceedingly well in states like Jammu and Kashmir, where it had hitherto no presence.
(Vikas Lather contributed inputs for this article)
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