NEW DELHI: Moderate to brisk voting was today witnessed in Delhi as 35.82 per cent of the nearly 1.33 crore voters exercised their franchise in the first five hours of polling in one of the most fiercely fought polls that saw BJP and AAP making an aggressive bid to capture power while Congress focused on regaining lost ground.
"35.82 per cent polling was recorded till 1 PM. Polling has been peaceful so far," a senior Election Commission official 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.
The Delhi polls are seen as a direct contest between AAP and BJP and being billed as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a description rejected by his party leaders.
This is the second assembly polls in Delhi within little over one year. The assembly polls in December 2013 had thrown a hung verdict with BJP winning 31 seats and AAP making a stunning debut by wresting 28 seats while Congress got only 8 in the 70-member assembly.
The elections are significant as a defeat for BJP may bolster the opposition while a victory for the party will increase its confidence ahead of assembly polls in Bihar later this year.
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 after casting his vote at B K Dutt colony in his New Delhi constituency.
His BJP rival Kiran Bedi, after casting her vote at a polling station in Malviya Nagar, appealed to people to come out in large numbers and vote.
"Today is a historic day. Delhiites have to decide what kind of Delhi they want - a clean Delhi, a secure Delhi, a capable Delhi, a Delhi that respects women. Respecting women is respecting Delhi. I appeal people to come out and vote," she said.
Sonia Gandhi cast her vote at a polling booth at 9:35 AM in Nirman Bhavan in Central Delhi.
When asked to comment on the polls, she said, "Whatever the people want will happen."
After casting his vote, Congress' face for Delhi polls Ajay Maken said, the 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."
Meanwhile, Kejriwal alleged that polling was very slow as only one voter was being allowed inside the polling booth at a time as against norm of three voters.
"Polling slowed down in many places. Long queues. Its taking 2 hours in some places. Voters returning," he said.
In another tweet, he said, "As per rules, 3 voters are allowed inside a booth at a time. They are allowing only 1 voter, which has slowed down voting."
Kejriwal said even lunch breaks are being taken which is against the rules. He demanded intervention of the Election Commission.
Polling began at 8 AM at over 12,000 polling stations amid tight security. 714 booths have been identified as "critical" while 191 "highly critical".
A total of 1.33 crore voters are 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.
Over 64,000 police personnel have been deployed across the city to ensure free and fair polls.
The Krishna Nagar constituency, from where Bedi is contesting, has 13 candidates.
Kejriwal is seeking re-election from the prestigious New Delhi constituency where he had defeated three-time chief minister Sheila Dikshit by over 22,000 votes last time.
Congress' Kiran Walia and BJP's Nupur Sharma are other two prominent contenders.