Delhi recorded a voter turnout of more than 55 per cent on Saturday wrapping up elections marked by an acrimonious campaign and with tension high after three incidents of gunfire at or near protest sites in four days.
Turnout was low through the day but picked up in the evening, compared to 67.12 per cent turnout in the city’s elections in 2015. Votes will be counted on February 11, Tuesday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced its first electoral test in Delhi since protests against a new citizenship law erupted nearly two months ago, leading to clashes in which at least 25 people have died in parts of the country. The BJP won a bigger majority in Lok Sabha elections in May 2019, but it has lost power in Maharashtra and Jharkhand since then.
The BJP campaigned in Delhi on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal appeal and the work of his government, in particular changes that have appealed to the party’s base such as repealing the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, and a court ruling, backed by the government, clearing the way for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by the city’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, was the BJP’s main challenger on Saturday. AAP focused on its work over the last five years, such as fixing state-run schools and healthcare in the city of more than 16 million people.
The Congress relied on the influence of a set of high-profile candidates and the legacy of late party leader Sheila Dikshit, who governed the city for 15 years before being voted out in 2013.
The election discourse took a turn in January when Home Minister Amit Shah, a BJP leader, during campaigning accused AAP of backing Shaheen Bagh, a Muslim-majority place in southeast Delhi, where protesters have blocked a major road for months to press for the repeal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Other issues, such as Delhi’s woeful air pollution, have not figured prominently in the election although all main contenders promise to tackle it.
A TV opinion poll held before February 8 showed the BJP narrowing the gap with but still trailing AAP in the 70-seat legislature.
(With inputs from agencies.)