Delhi elections: Afternoon voters save city the blushes, first result is record turnout

Delhi PollsThis is the first time in recent years that Delhi has registered a voting percentage of over 60. (IE Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Delhi registered a record 66 per cent voter turnout Wednesday and the number looked set to touch 70 per cent as thousands waited in long lines to vote in the Assembly elections past the deadline of 5 pm, forcing the Election Commission to extend polling hours.

While the all-time high turnout could spell trouble for the Sheila Dikshit government, it would also send ominous signals for the UPA government.

Unlike the four other states where local issues dominated the elections, the Delhiresults will be seen as a barometer of the anti-incumbency sentiment as much against Dikshit as against the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre.

It could also boost the fledgling Aam Admi Party (AAP), whose aggressive and innovative campaign strategy was believed to be mainly responsible for the high turnout as it had devised its campaign around issues concerning both the state and the Central governments.

The anti-corruption movement launched by Anna Hazare in Delhi, which led to the emergence of the AAP, was targeted at the UPA government before Arvind Kejriwal entered politics and diverted focus to the omissions and commissions of the Delhi government.

Delhi saw large turnouts in middle-class and upper-middle-class constituencies where the policy paralysis of the UPA government has been a major cause of concern, reportedly leading to their alienation from the Congress.

The provisional turnout figure of 65 per cent has been the highest for Delhi. In the first Assembly elections in Delhi, it was 61.75 per cent, which came down to 48.99 per cent in 1998 when the Congress came to power.

The voting percentage went up in two subsequent Assembly elections to 53.42 per cent in 2003 and 57.61 per cent in 2008.

Contrary to common perception about high voter turnout in Delhi reflecting strong anti-incumbency, the ruling Congress gave a different spin saying the increased numbers would help it.

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