Lakhs of men and women on Sunday voted to pick three new municipal corporations in an election crucial for all three main contenders — the BJP, Congress and the AAP.
Voters began trooping into the 13,022 polling centres right from the time balloting opened at 8 a.m., the crowds turning into long queues in many places as the hours rolled by.
In a bid to beat the heat, people reached polling stations even before they opened in some areas.
In the first two hours, an estimated 11 per cent of the 1.32 crore electorate had voted. Election Commission officials said the number would have risen substantially by 1 p.m.
A total of 2,537 candidates are in the fray in the battle for the North Delhi Municipal Corporation and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (104 seats each) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (64 seats).
Polling in two wards — Maujpur in East Delhi and Sarai Pipal Thala in North Delhi — has been postponed due to the deaths of a Samajwadi Party candidate each.
The three main contenders are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has controlled the civic body for 10 long years, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which governs Delhi, and the Congress.
The three civic bodies cover 68 of the 70 assembly constituencies in Delhi.
Lt Governor Anil Baijal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken and Delhi BJP leaders were among the early voters.
“I urge the people of Delhi to vote for a filth free Delhi, a dengue and chikungunya free Delhi,” said Kejriwal after casting his vote along with his family.
Asked if the election was a referendum on the AAP government’s two-year performance in Delhi, he said: “We will see when the results will come out (on Wednesday).”
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia stood in a queue to vote at Pandav Nagar in east Delhi. He appealed to the people to vote for the AAP to “help the national capital fight corruption”.
Maken rooted for the Congress.
“The BJP has done enough damage for 10 years. The only thing it has done is engaging in verbal duels with the AAP. People want sensible governance. Going by Congress’ track record, they will vote for us,” he said.
BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi blamed the Kejriwal government for the capital mess and said she was confident her party would again control the civic body.
Some voters complained of poor organisation.
“Voter slips have not been given to many. This has created a lot of confusion. My wife and I didn’t get any voter slips,” Amit Basu, a voter from Chittaranjan Park in south Delhi, told IANS.
The erstwhile unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi was trifurcated into North, South and East Delhi Municipal Corporations in 2012.
The counting will take place on April 26.
Over 56,000 police and paramilitary personnel were deployed for the voting along with some 20,000 Home Guards.