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Hit by heat? Delhi turnout drops to 10-year low

NEW DELHI: Intense heat, extended weekend, and general indifference seem to have caused a drop of close to 4.5 percentage points in voter turnout in the capital for the parliamentary elections on Saturday. The city was electing seven members of the Lok Sabha after intense campaigning by BJP, AAP, and Congress, the latter two having struck an alliance.

According to Election Commission's voter turnout app at 10pm, 56 per cent of over 1.5 crore eligible voters cast their votes in the capital. In 2019, the turnout had been recorded at 60.6 per cent and in 2014, it was 65.1 per cent, indicating a sharp drop in voter engagement despite strenuous efforts by EC, civil society groups and RWAs to encourage people to exercise their franchise.

EC officials, however, added that the turnout figures were still undergoing revision and the final number would emerge later.

Though 162 candidates are in the fray, the fight is largely between BJP, which is looking at a hat-trick with a clean sweep, and the AAP-Congress combine, which fought its first election together after making a pre-poll seat-sharing arrangement.

North East Delhi parliamentary constituency, which has witnessed an interesting electoral battle between BJP's sitting MP Manoj Tiwari and Congress' Kanhaiya Kumar, recorded the highest voting percentage of approximately 60.8 per cent in the capital. The lowest voter turnout of 52 per cent was recorded in New Delhi constituency, which is home to politicians, bureaucrats and judges and has a number of upscale residential pockets. It also houses many govt employees. Here, BJP's Bansuri Swaraj is contesting against AAP's Somnath Bharti.

Voting loses steam as temp rises

At 10pm, the voter turnout in West Delhi was recorded at 57.8 per cent ; in Chandni Chowk 58.1 per cent ; in East Delhi 54.8 per cent ; in South Delhi 53.9 per cent ; and in North West Delhi 53.8 per cent .

A senior official at the office of chief electoral officer of Delhi said voting was continuing in a few polling booths in North East Delhi and North West Delhi till 7.30pm, much beyond the cut-off time of 6pm.

"We should wait till the time the final voter turnout is known to make an analysis," said an official from the office of the chief electoral officer of Delhi. "Getting the data from some polling stations takes time and this does not include postal ballots," the official added.

Polling had started at a brisk speed in the morning with the sun yet to glare down at the capital. There were queues at several polling booths across the city. But as the day progressed to noon and then late afternoon, the crowds dwindled. Queues began to form again in the evening before the closing time of 6pm.

While there were some reports of EVM and VVPAT machines developing snags in some booths, officials claimed these were minor hiccups. CPI (M) functionary Brinda Karat, however, alleged she had to wait for almost an hour to cast her vote as the battery of the EVM control unit at her polling booth at St Columba's School in the New Delhi constituency "drained out". Poll officials, however, said it was replaced.

Delhi ministers Atishi and Saurabh Bharadwaj also complained about alleged irregularities. Atishi allegedthat irregularities were committed by presiding officers in Janakpuri and Kalkaji.

Both BJP and AAP-Congress alliance have a lot at stake in this election. While BJP is looking at asserting its political dominance by winning all seven Delhi seats, as it has done in the two Lok Sabha elections in the immediate past, Congress, with the help of AAP, is trying to reclaim a foothold in the city politics. AAP is looking to have a larger say in national politics by sending its functionaries to Lok Sabha.

Under the seat-sharing arrangement, AAP has fielded candidates on four seats – New Delhi, South Delhi, West Delhi and East Delhi – while Congress is contesting three – North East Delhi, Chandni Chowk and North West Delhi.