Polling passes off peacefully in Delhi, turnout dips

Turnout dips to 61.67%, but voters turn up in large numbers in Shaheen Bagh.

February 09, 2020 12:21 am | Updated 12:21 am IST - NEW DELHI

Voter wait in queues at Shaheen Public School polling station in the Shaheen Bagh area of New Delhi on February 8, 2020.

Voter wait in queues at Shaheen Public School polling station in the Shaheen Bagh area of New Delhi on February 8, 2020.

Delhi’s reported voter turnout declined to 61.67 on Saturday, from the 67.13% recorded in in the 2015 Assembly election.

Polling passed off peacefully despite the run-up to the election witnessing several vitriolic campaign speeches and three incidents of firing at anti-CAA protest sites. Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur was barred from campaigning for three days for exhorting “traitors” to be shot.

As polling began on Saturday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made a request to women voters to go out and vote. “Just as you shoulder the responsibility at home, likewise, the responsibility of the country and Delhi is on your shoulders. Also take the men in your family out to vote and discuss with them who is the right person to vote for,” he tweeted. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who spearheaded the BJP’s campaign, appealed on Twitter to the people of Delhi to vote to “free Delhi from lies and vote bank politics”.

Also read: Women protesters at Shaheen Bagh vote in batches to keep agitation alive | Kalitara Mandal, Delhi’s oldest voter, lived ‘twice as a refugee’ | Delhi Elections 2020 live updates

At the New Delhi constituency, President Ram Nath Kovind, Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were among those who voted. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra cast her vote along with her son Rehan, a first-time voter.

Protests continue

Voters in Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of anti-CAA protests, turned up in large numbers to exercise their franchise. With Shaheen Bagh being used as a punching bag by the BJP during the bruising campaign, several voters present outside polling stations said that it was time for the Hindu-Muslim discourse to end.

In a bid to ensure that the Shaheen Bagh dharna continued, women protesters took turns to vote, with some arriving after spending the entire night at the protest site while others headed there soon after casting their vote. There was heavy presence of paramiltary forces in the Okhla constituency as Shaheen Bagh had been declared a “critical” area by the Chief Electoral Officer.

A 50-year-old polling officer on duty in northeast Delhi’s Babarpur reportedly died of a heart attack after he fell sick at the polling station, an hour before voting began.

Shahdara SDM Debasis Biswal said the polling officer, Udham Singh, a municipal schoolteacher, had complained of chest pain and uneasiness after which he was rushed to a nearby hospital. He was deployed at polling booth number 180 at Babarpur.

In another incident, a 59-year-old man standing in a queue to cast his vote at a polling station in Hari Nagar died of a reported heart attack on Saturday morning. Police said that a PCR call was received at 10.30 a.m. about a man having collapsed outside a polling station in Hari Nagar. The man was rushed to a hospital where he was declared brought dead. He was identified as Nitin Bhakhru, a resident of Nanakpura in Hari Nagar.

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