53 percent of Delhi votes, Congress exudes confidence

Thursday, May 7, 2009

NEW DELHI - Overall 53 percent of Delhi’s 12 million electorate - among them Congress president Sonia Gandhi - turned out to vote in the Lok Sabha polls on a not-so-hot Thursday, faring better than metros like Mumbai and Bangalore and showing a bit of political fervour before the city plunged into celebrating more than 10,000 weddings.

On a day when Delhi improved its polling percentage over the last two parliamentary elections, the Congress exuded confidence that it would sweep all the seven constituencies in the capital while main rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) admitted it would be a close fight.

‘We are expecting the voting percentage to be between 50-53 percent,’ Delhi’s Chief Electoral Officer Satbir Silas Bedi told reporters here earlier in the evening.

Polling began at 7 a.m. across the 11,348 polling booths in the capital and ended at 5 p.m. after 10 hours of balloting. Nearly four million of the total voters were in the age group of 18-29.

‘We will sweep (the polls) in Delhi and people have voted for the Congress for the development work carried out by the Congress government at the centre and in Delhi,’ a confident Delhi Congress chief J.P. Agarwal told IANS.

Delhi BJP chief O.P. Kohli told IANS: ‘The fight is very close in these elections and it is very difficult for me to turn it into figures right now. We will have a meeting Friday evening when we will assess the situation.’

A total of 160 candidates were in the fray.

The key contests were between New Delhi constituency’s Vijay Goel (BJP) and Ajay Maken (Congress); East Delhi’s Chetan Chauhan (BJP) and Sandeep Dikshit (Congress); North-East Delhi’s B.L. Sharma Prem (BJP) and J.P. Agarwal (Congress) and Chandni Chowk’s Vijendra Gupta (BJP) and Kapil Sibal (Congress).

The highest turnout was recorded in West Delhi constituency at 53 percent followed by East Delhi at 52.5 percent. The lowest was in North-West Delhi at 45 percent.

‘We wish to congratulate Delhi citizens in sending a message of hope and leadership to the entire nation. The voting percentage has been all time high as far as parliamentary elections are concerned,’ EFG (Exercise Franchise for Good Governance), a Delhi based non-political social forum, said in a statement.

Besides Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, the first few hours also saw other VVIPs turning up - Vice President Hamid Ansari, former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Sonia Gandhi’s daughter and son-in-law Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra, and Congress general secretary rahul Gandhi.

The weather did not play spoilsport as the temperature hovered around 38 degrees Celsius, three degrees below the average for this time of the year.

The day also saw over 10,000 weddings, which stopped many voters from leaving town for a long weekend outside. And they came out to vote.

‘There are around 10,000 to 15,000 weddings scheduled for Thursday. It is Narsimha Jayanti - a very auspicious day,’ Ravinder Nagar, head priest of the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, told IANS.

After the low voter turnout in Mumbai disappointed many, SMSes had gone around in Delhi asking people to vote. One such read: ‘Today is not a holiday. Your contribution to India. Don’t be a Pappu.’

‘All the campaigns which were run to create awareness among voters, including the Pappu campaign, had a good impact on the urban population. In urban areas, people came out enthusiatially which we had not expected,’ Delhi’s chief electoral officer Satbir Silas Bedi said.

The national capital scored over other metros like Mumbai (41.24 percent) and Bangalore (over 45 percent) in terms of polling percentage.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Delhi had recorded 47.09 percent polling, while in 1999, the figure was 43.54.

More than 73,000 officials conducted the voting. Nearly 56,000 police personnel were deployed across the capital. Counting of votes will take place May 16.

Filed under: India, Politics

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