NEW DELHI: An estimated 67 per cent turnout was recorded today in the crucial Delhi assembly polls where BJP and AAP were locked in a battle royale, outcome of which may have ramifications on the national political landscape.
"Around 67 per cent polling was recorded. However, we are still yet to get the final figure as voting continued beyond scheduled deadline of 6 PM," Delhi's Chief Electoral Officer Chandra Bhushan Kumar said.
The assembly election, held for the second time in little over one year, has been largely a direct contest between BJP and a resurgent AAP which has put up a tough fight under Arvind Kejriwal's leadership.
All the exit polls have predicted a majority for the AAP with one of them giving it as high as 53 seats in the 70-member House.
The elections are being considered significant as a victory for BJP will increase its confidence ahead of assembly polls in Bihar later this year and in West Bengal in 2016 while a defeat may bolster the opposition.
The BJP, which is out of power in Delhi for the last 16 years, made a no holds barred effort to win the polls. It is being billed by many as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a description rejected by BJP.
The Election Commission said the elections have been largely peaceful and that there was no major glitch in Electronic Voting Machines. 44 EVMs had to replaced.
In 2013 assembly polls, the overall voting percentage was 66 which was an increase of around 9 per cent from 57.58 per cent in 2008.
Kejriwal, who led AAP's spirited campaign, today exuded confidence of getting a clear mandate for his party as he said "truth will triumph" in the polls.
"I am confident that AAP will win the elections and form government in Delhi," he told PTI.
His BJP rival Kiran Bedi rejected the exit poll results carried out by various news channels even as she spoke of taking "full responsibility" if her party suffers a loss.
Addressing a press conference, a visibly exhausted Bedi also thanked BJP for reposi
ng "faith" in her wondering what the party "saw in her".
"I am sure the results would change if the surveys take into account voting post 3 PM. They are incomplete as the turn out from 3 PM to 6 PM has not been included.
Then the verdict may go in BJP's favour," she said.
Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, BJP's chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi, Union Ministers Harsh Vardhan and Maneka Gandhi, Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, Congress' Ajay Maken and BJP's Varun Gandhi were among the early voters.
Priyanka Gandhi, AAP leader Manish Sisodia, Delhi's Chief Electoral Officer Kumar, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, DPCC chief Arvinder Singh Lovely, Delhi BJP President Satish Upadhyay also exercised their franchise in the morning hours.
When asked about the polls, the Congress President said, "Whatever the people want will happen."
Congress' face for Delhi polls Ajay Maken said his party will never extend or take support from AAP if such a situation arises.
"We will never ever give support to AAP again," he said, adding, "I am very hopeful that Congress is going to do exceedingly well and we are going to form government on our own."
Earlier, the polling began at 8 AM at over 12,000 polling stations amid tight security. 714 booths were identified as "critical" while 191 "highly critical".
A total of 1.33 crore voters were eligible to exercise their franchise out of which around 1.50 lakh are first-time voters. A total of 673 candidates are in the fray in the contest.
The Election Commission had made elaborate arrangements and deployed over 64,000 police personnel across the city to ensure free and fair polls.
BJP's Chief Ministerial candidate Bedi is contesting from Krishna Nagar constituency while Kejriwal is seeking re-election from the prestigious New Delhi seat. Congress' Maken is contesting from Sadar Bazar seat.
The campaign for the poll was marked by bitter political attacks and allegations and counter allegations.
The BJP came out with a Vision Document instead of a manifesto in which the party laid down a road-map to make Delhi a world class city. It, however, did not spell out BJP's position on full statehood to the national capital.
The AAP in its manifesto promised full statehood for Delhi.
The AAP manifesto was full of pro-people announcements as it promised 50 per cent cut in power tariff, free Wi-Fi across Delhi, installation of 10-15 lakh CCTV cameras for women security, making water a legal right and bringing down the VAT significantly among others.
Congress also made an array of promises in its manifesto like significant cut in power rates, Wi-Fi facilities in public transport and ensuring a graft-free administration if voted to power in Delhi.
The BJP, which is out of power in Delhi for the last 16 years, made a gamble by bringing in former Team Anna member Bedi into the party and made her the party's Chief Ministerial candidate which is said to have triggered discontent among the party's 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.
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 had given AAP a clear majority while a few have predicted BJP's win.