Anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh had emerged as a major poll issue during the high-octane electoral campaigning but voters in south Delhi are divided on whether it will have any bearing on the outcome of the assembly election.
A section of voters claimed that the prolonged street agitation in the area demanding revocation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was "not an issue in the beginning of the campaign" but "political parties slowly turned it into one".
Syed Asif, 30, a trained engineer, who runs a business near the site of the protest that has been going on for over 50 days now, lamented that Shaheen Bagh agitation was about "human issue" but "made into a poll issue to serve selfish interests".
"Thus, it surely polarised minds of people and that will have an impact on the outcome of the polls. But Delhi also has very sensible people and I am very hopeful that most of the people have voted or will vote wisely," he said as he stood in a long queue at a polling station in Shaheen Bagh thronged by voters till late afternoon.
Looking to capture power after a gap of 22 years, the BJP had mounted its one of the most aggressive campaigns in the Delhi Assembly polls, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah leading the saffron charge fuelled by its planks of Hindutva and nationalism, and its strident opposition to Shaheen Bagh protests.
The issue often dominated the political discourse during the campaign, with many BJP leaders targeting the ruling AAP, and the Congress, accusing them of "misleading people" holding anti-CAA protests in Delhi.
Sakit Mallik, 25, came to vote along with his family, which also included two young women, who exercised their franchise for the first time.
"We live in Shaheen Bagh area and we have taken part in the protests and will go and sit again. One woman lost her baby in this fight. And they accused women of taking money and coming to protests for free 'biryani'. How shameful is that. Our protest is a national-level fight for a large cause. And development will have an impact on poll results not the protests, which was deliberately made into an issue," said 30-year-old Gulshan Mallik.
Mohammed Yasin, 62, agreed with Mallik and claimed that the Shaheen Bagh protests issue "will not impact the poll results".
"The protests are about CAA and NRC and aims to fight for a better future for our people, irrespective of the religion they belong to. The protests have been supported by members of other communities too, Hindus and Sikhs, it was not about just Delhi. It is making global headlines," he said.
"And people of Delhi are not foolish, they understand what is hollow politics and what is pro-development agenda," he asserted.
Meanwhile, women protesters at Shaheen Bagh voted in batches on Saturday so that the agitation remains unaffected.
In view of the ongoing protests in Shaheen Bagh, the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer's Office had put all the five polling stations in the area under the "critical" category.
"All the booths are in sensitive areas so extra vigil is being maintained. Paramilitary forces are also patrolling the area and webcasting is being done at polling stations," a senior poll official told PTI in the afternoon when about 40-45 per cent votes were cast at a polling station located in the building of Abul Kalam Azad Boys School.
At Shaheen Bagh, young and old, men and women queued up since morning at the five polling stations to cast their votes.
In Jamia Nagar, Mohammad Zubair, 63, who came to vote along with his 26-year-old daughter Sarah Madiha, an architect, said he will choose development.
"Attempts were made to polarise voters by a party over the anti-CAA protests, but it will not work much," he said.
Sarah agreed with her father, saying, "Yes, I am all for nationalism. But nationalism to me means Hindus ad Muslims being treated equally."
"I have a lot of my friends who are non-Muslims and have different ideologies, but even they don't sanction the idea of using a peaceful protest for political gains. They made the protests a poll issue but it will not have any impact on the polls results," she claimed.
However, S C Sharma, 74, who came to vote along with his wife in the Kalkaji constituency, said he voted for "development and national security".
Several BJP leaders during campaigning have denounced the Shaheen Bagh protests, terming it a "threat to security", "anti-India" and an "attempt to malign the image of a rising India".
Though the Shaheen Bagh protest site is far away from Kalkaji, a section of voters in the Kalkaji constituency also feel that the anti-CAA protests there will "have a bearing" on the elections that concluded on Saturday evening.
Amit Lal, 18, who mans a shop at Kalkaji Mandir voted for the first time. He said the Shaheen Bagh issue will "have an impact" but development agenda also cannot be ignored.
"I live in a JJ Colony in Madanpur Khadar that neighbours the protest site, and the anti-CAA protests were made a major poll issue by parties. But agenda should have been development, education and health and jobs."
However, as a responsible voter no one should get "swayed by polarisation", he said.
Nearly, 57 per cent of the electorate had cast their votes by 6 pm in the Delhi Assembly election held on Saturday but the figure is likely to be updated later. The votes will be counted on February 11.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)