After a high-decibel and bitter poll campaign, 61.7% of Delhi's electors turned out to vote by 9 pm on Saturday in the assembly elections that will decide who will govern the city-state for the next five years. The polling percentage was 5.42 percentage points lower than in the 2015 assembly polls, when 67.12% of voters trooped out to vote.
Three Muslim-dominated seats -- Seelampur, Mustafabad and Matia Mahal -- recorded the highest voter turnout in the elections in which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is seeking to retain power in what is seen as a bipolar contest against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The highest turnout, until 9 pm, was recorded in Seelampur at 71.4% followed by Mustafabad at 70.56%; both seats are in northeast Delhi. Matia Mahal in old Delhi recorded a turnout of 70.33%.
All three constituencies have lately witnessed protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, which proposes to fast-track the grant of Indian citizenship to so-called persecuted minorities from the Muslim-majority nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan such as Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis.
According to officials, the turnout in the first hour of polling was just 4.33%, which grew to 16.36% at 11 am, 26.36% at 1 pm, 45.54% at 3 pm and 57.87% at 5 pm. Till 5 pm, the Northeast district had recorded the highest voter turnout at 63.4% while New Delhi district was the lowest at 44.29%.
Poll officials said that the tentative lowest turnout till 9 pm was recorded at Delhi Cantonment, at 45.28%, followed by Chhatarpur at 46.51% and Ballimaran at 49.39%. Okhla witnessed a 58.83% voter turnout, which is lower than the 60.73% in the 2015 polls.
On constituencies recording top turnout and one of the lowest -- Ballimaran -- being Muslim-dominated constituencies, Praveen Rai, political analyst with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, said: "Ballimaran and Okhla are constituencies in which the anti-CAA protests in Jama Masjid and Shaheen Bagh fall under. It is likely that many voters have boycotted the polls. In other Muslim constituencies, people voted in large numbers for betterment in civic conditions as well as in reaction to their anxieties concerning the citizenship law."
In the 2015 assembly election, Gokalpur in northeast Delhi had recorded the highest turnout of 73.46% while Delhi Cantonment had polled the lowest votes at 58.49%. All assembly constituencies except Delhi Cantonment had polled above 60% votes in 2015 assembly elections.
In 2015, the ruling AAP received a landslide verdict, winning 67 out of the 70 seats. The BJP won the remaining three and the Congress ended up with none.
The AAP won 54% of the vote share in the polls which decreased in the civic body polls of 2017 and the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. The BJP polled 32% votes in the 2015 assembly polls which increased to 36% in the 2017 civic body elections. The saffron party won 56% votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In 2019, it had a lead in 65 of the 70 assembly constituencies. The Congress got just 10% of votes in 2015, 21% in 2017 and 23% in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Delhi's chief electoral officer (CEO) Ranbir Singh said that Saturday's polling was smooth and peaceful, as the enforcement was better compared to the 2015 assembly polls. He said that there were nearly 14.79 million registered voters in Delhi across 70 assembly segments. Out of the total number of eligible voters, there were 8.1 million male voters and 6.6 million female voters. Besides this, there are 869 third-gender voters.
Singh said that the number of electronic voting machines (EVMs) malfunctioning this time was just 0.29% as compared to 0.31% in 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Voting began at 8 am in the city amid tight security on Saturday and continued past the scheduled close of 6 pm in some booths to accommodate voters who were still waiting in queues.
"Till 9 pm, polling was still on at least 146 booths. There were long queues till late evening; the overall turnout could be updated only once the voting concludes. All those who had entered the polling stations by 6 pm were allowed to cast their vote," said Singh.
Election officials said that there were as many as 13,571 polling stations at 2,688 locations. Out of these, 3,141 were designated critical polling stations and 144 vulnerable polling stations. The highest number of voters was in the Matiala constituency with around 400,000 voters. Chandni Chowk is the constituency with the lowest number of voters at 100,000.
There were around 200,000 voters above the age of 80, while 137 registered voters were above the age of 100, of whom 60 turned up to vote.
Of the 2,429 people above the age of 80 years, who opted for postal ballots, 2,257 cast their votes. Besides, of the 488 persons with disabilities who opted for the facility, 429 exercised their franchise.
The postal ballot, a facility hitherto restricted to the armed forces, was extended for the first time in Delhi elections to those above 80 years of age and the specially-abled.
Also, in the 11 constituencies with a total electorate of 1.8 million where QR code-enabled voter slips were issued for the first time in Delhi, more than 1.1 million exercised their franchise.
"The voter slips are scanned by mobile phones. This is the first time that a booth app was used by the polling parties in these constituencies. It helps in faster scanning of names in the voter list and hence expedites the voting process," said Kushal Pathak, director of information, Election Commission of India.
To ensure peaceful and fair polling in all 70 constituencies, as many as 190 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) were deployed. Besides, 19,000 Home Guards and 42,000 Delhi Police personnel were also on duty.