Turn-out likely to cross 60 per cent; polling time extended in many areas

Beginning as a trickle, polling for the municipal elections to the new North, South and East Corporations of Delhi literally turned into a deluge by late afternoon on Sunday, taking the voter turnout to between 55 and 58 per cent.

This being the first election to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi following trifurcation and reservation of 50 per cent seats for women, people turned out in large numbers raising the prospects of the voting percentage crossing 60 per cent mark for the first time in the history of civic elections in Delhi.

State Election Commissioner Rakesh Mehta said voting continued past 7 p.m. in at least four wards -- Timarpur, Bazar Sitaram, Turkman Gate and Khanpur. He said there was a surge of voters after lunch and all those who entered the polling premises by the scheduled close of 5-30 p.m. were given slips so that they could exercise their franchise.

The percentages are only estimates and the real picture would emerge on Monday once the reports of all the 68 Returning Officers are received.

But what had emerged clearly, Mr. Mehta said, was the trend of voting: the highest percentage in the East, following by North and South Corporations. Also, the rural areas recorded a higher turnout, with Chhawla polling 63 per cent as against 43 per cent in elite areas like Vasant Vihar. The audio-visual campaigns and sending invitation letters to the voters by the Commission to cast their votes appeared to have paid dividend as the voting percentage rose sharply across Delhi. Even in Vasant Vihar, it rose significantly from 28 per cent in the 2007 elections.

Among the places that recorded the highest turnout was New Ashok Nagar which polled nearly 65 per cent. In many areas, the Commissioner said, it was between 64 and 66 per cent. “This makes us hopeful that it could cross 60 per cent overall and grow from a second division to a first division,'' he quipped.

The Election Commissioner said the voting percentage would have been even higher had 4,265 voters of five polling stations of Ladpur village in Karala ward not boycotted the election to protest against land ‘chakbandi' (consolidation) not being done by the Revenue Department in their area. Further, he said, about 2,400 voters of Sanod village in Alipur ward boycotted the election protesting against the coming up of a waste treatment plant in their area.

Counting tomorrow

Mr. Mehta said the voting was completely peaceful and no re-polling was required. The counting of votes would take place from 8 a.m. on Tuesday and the results are expected by 3 p.m.

He said there was some problem with about 10 electronic voting machines as they got locked following the pressing of the ‘close' button after the mock poll, but later they were either restarted or replaced. On the progress of voting, the Commissioner said it was more or less uniform from the start at 8 a.m. with 12 per cent votes cast in the first two hours, 22 per cent by 12 noon, 35 per cent by 2 p.m., and about 43 per cent by 4 p.m.

Since the Lutyens' Delhi in which most prominent politicians reside is not in MCD area, only a few senior leaders of Delhi voted on Sunday. Prominent among them were Union Minister and New Delhi MP Ajay Maken, Delhi Congress president J.P. Agarwal and Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta.

Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Parvez Hashmi could not cast his vote as his name was missing from the voters' list.