Voting will be held on Thursday for seven Lok Sabha seats in the country’s capital, seen as test of Aam Aadmi Party’s perceived erosion of support base, BJP’s claim of ‘Modi wave’ and assertion by Congress that it was regaining lost ground after drubbing in last assembly polls.
The high-voltage contest also assumes greater significance as it may set the stage for the possible assembly polls in the city in the next few months.
The campaign for the election saw main contenders BJP, Congress and fledgling AAP engaging in a fierce race to woo the 1.27 crore voters. Though Delhi has only seven Lok Sabha seats, the election outcome in the heart of the country carry a lot of significance due to political symbolism.
Though a total of 150 candidates are in the fray, including 58 Independents, the contest in all constituencies is likely to be three-way among the BJP, AAP and Congress.
For AAP, the election assumes greater significance as it will reflect people’s support to it after the newbie created history in the December 4 assembly polls wresting 28 of the 70 seats and forming the government.
Mr. Kejriwal had faced severe criticism for quiting from the government after remaining in power for 49 days. Both Congress and BJP had mounted a shrill attack on Mr. Kejriwal accusing him of running away from responsibilities.
The BJP’s campaign was centred around Narendra Modi and the election will determine whether the ‘Modi wave’ had any impact or not. If the party performs well, then it may press for early assembly polls. The BJP had won 31 seats in the assembly polls but refused to form the government.
“Your vote for our seven candidates in Delhi is a vote for me. Vote for them and help me build a strong and prosperous India,” Mr. Modi appealed to the people through advertisements in the dailies on Wednesday.
Almost all top party leaders including Mr. Modi, Mr. Advani, Ms. Sushma Swaraj, Mr. Rajnath Singh and Mr. Arun Jaitley campaigned in the city. BJP drew a blank in the 2009 polls, while Congress had won all the seven seats.
After its massive defeat in the assembly polls in December last year, Congress through its campaign tried hard to win back support of the people through rallies and house-to-house contact programme.
The party was routed in the assembly polls as it could win only eight seats. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi had addressed separate rallies.
AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal held road shows and public meetings across the city but its candidates mainly focused on connecting with people through door-to-door visits.
In the prestigious Chandni Chowk constituency, Union Minister Kapil Sibal was facing a tough fight from BJP’s Harsh Vardhan and journalist-turn-politician Ashutosh of AAP in his bid to retain the seat for the third time.
In East Delhi, incumbent MP Sandeep Dikshit is pitted against BJP’s Maheish Girri and AAP’s Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
A tough triangular contest is in the offing in the high-profile New Delhi constituency where Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken was facing two first-time contenders in BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi and Ashish Khaitan from AAP.
An interesting battle is on the cards among BJP’s Udit Raj, AAP’s Rakhi Birla and Congress’ Krishna Tirath in North West Delhi. The Dalit community, which is over 20 per cent of the total voters, may hold sway in the seat.
In South Delhi, BJP candidate Ramesh Bidhuri was pitted against Devender Sehrawat from AAP and Congress’ Ramesh Kumar.
BJP has fielded Bhojpuri singer Manoj Tiwari in North East Delhi seat where AAP’s Anand Kumar and Congress’ J.P. Agarwal are the other prominent contenders.
There are 29 contenders from New Delhi constituency, the highest for any seat, while the lowest of 14 is in North West seat.
Nearly 50,000 security personnel, apart from 161 flying squads of police and video surveillance teams have been deployed as part of elaborate preparations to ensure fair and peaceful polls in Delhi.
Election Commission said it has done away with provision of voter cards and voter slips being mandatory to cast vote.
Polling will be held in 11,763 polling stations out of which 327 have been declared critical and 90 hyper-critical.
Voting will start at 7 a.m. and will continue till 6 p.m.
For the first time, Delhi residents will be able to exercise their franchise even if they do not have Electors Photo Identity Card (voter card), but have their names registered in the electoral roll.
Encouraged by “historic” voter turnout in the recently held Delhi assembly elections, Delhi’s Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev appealed to Delhi residents to come out and vote and said he was hopeful of better polling percentage this time.
In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the overall voting percentage stood at 52.3 per cent, which increased to 66 per cent in the 2013 Delhi Assembly election. The Delhi Election Commission said it was confident of surpassing the figure of 66 per cent.