The stage is set for a battle royale in Delhi where polling will be held on Saturday for 70 seats in the Assembly elections billed as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a view rejected by the BJP leadership.
The battle to win control over the national capital saw a resurgent Aam Aadmi Party giving a tough fight to the BJP which has staked its all on Modi’s image.
Over 1.33 crore electorate will decide the fate of 673 candidates in the fray for the Delhi Assembly elections.
Polling will take place at 12,177 polling stations, of which 714 have been identified as “critical”. Of these, 191 are “highly critical”.
The BJP, which is out of power in Delhi for the last 16 years, made a gamble by bringing in former Team Anna member Kiran Bedi into the party and made her its Chief Ministerial candidate which is said to have triggered discontent among the party leaders rank and file.
The BJP strategy has been countered by Kejriwal-led AAP which has put up a spirited campaign in a bid to stop the Modi juggernaut that has been on a roll ever since the Lok Sabha election victory in May last year.
BJP leaders Amit Shah and union ministers M Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley have dismissed projections that the Delhi election is a referendum on the Modi government’s performance, a statement seen by critics as an effort to shield the Prime Minister from any criticism.
The Congress, which had ruled Delhi for 15 years till December, 2013 has been projected way behind AAP and BJP in pre-poll surveys. Some opinion polls have given AAP a clear majority while a few have predicted BJP’s win.
A total of 673 candidates are in the fray for the polls. The Burari constituency in North Delhi has a maximum of 18 candidates while the Ambedkar Nagar seat in South Delhi has the lowest number of contenders at four.
There are 63 contesting women candidates in this election as against 71 in 2013.
The number of candidates from recognised national and state parties is 296 while 183 candidates belong to registered parties and there are 194 Independent nominees.
The poll panel has made elaborate arrangements for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the polling process which will begin at 8 AM and continue till 6 PM.
“As many as 95,000 government officials have been roped in for election duty to ensure smooth conduct of the polling process. Besides, adequate numbers of security personnel will be deployed at all polling booths,” Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Chandra Bhushan Kumar has said.
The total electorate in Delhi stands at 1,33,09,078 — 73,89,089 men; 59,19,127 women; and 862 belonging to the third gender.
There are 2,27,316 voters in the age group of 18 to 19 years, 36,93,975 in the age group of 20 to 29 years, while 311 electors are above 100 years old.
The Matia Mahal constituency has the largest number of electorate at 3,47,245 and Chandni Chowk the lowest at 1,13,777.
Seventy ‘strong rooms’ have been set up in 14 locations in the national capital where electronic voting machines will be stored after polling.
There will be three-tier security arrangements for ‘strong rooms’ — CAPF, state armed police force and district police.
16,000 control units 20,000 ballot units will be used for polling. As for security inside polling booths, 1,200 micro observers will oversee the entire procedure and also report technical problems in EVM operations, if any.
“In all these polling stations we will have micro observers, CCTV cameras. Also we will be able to watch proceedings in the 142 polling stations in our control room through live web-casting. There are also 9,369 electors who are homeless,” said Bhushan.
According to the Delhi CEO, a total of 43,235 postal ballots have been received so far in comparison to 41,095 during the Assembly Elections 2013.