AAP swing? Delhi's aam voter carries day, evening

Arvind KejriwalArvind Kejriwal after casting his vote (IE Photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

In a litmus test for the ruling Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year, Delhi recorded its highest voter turnout when 66 per cent of its 1.2 crore electorate, shrugging off the lazy-voter label, headed to the booths on Wednesday to elect a new state government.

Some 1.7 lakh people were still in queues outside booths in tony parts of the city and in some of its poorest neighbourhoods at 5 pm, the official deadline for voting to close.

The Election Commission, in an unprecedented gesture, announced extension of voting time. The last vote was cast at 9.30 pm in the Okhla Assembly constituency, four-and-half hours after the deadline.

The stunning turnout eclipsed the 1993 record of 61.75 per cent when Delhi elected its first government.

"The turnout has been around 66 per cent... The young have broken all stereotypes. They want to vote," Delhi Chief Electoral officer Vijay Dev told reporters. Votes will be counted on Sunday.

The heavy turnout surprised parties and pundits, and each interpreted it differently. Congress rival BJP said it was a vote against the ruling party — Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office — while debutant Aam Aadmi Party claimed the turnout reflected the "people's anger" against mainstream parties and "eagerness for a change". Asked about the heavy voting, Dikshit appeared defensive, saying it was a good sign and representative of participatory democracy.

From upmarket Greater Kailash to rural Badli, Karol Bagh to Burari, Rajouri Garden to Seemapuri, people lined up and waited for hours outside booths.

Consider these:

Greater Kailash: 65.8 per cent (54.3 per cent in 2008); Congress candidate Virender Kasana said: "The increase is due to the young voters turning out in greater numbers. The AAP has admittedly pulled them in, this is to the detriment of other parties. Some were new additions, and we are not sure where these votes will go."

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