New Delhi, Dec. 4: Long years after Delhi made its tryst with destiny, its voters today redeemed their democratic pledge — not exactly at the midnight hour but well past sundown.
Around 9.30 at night, the electoral sun was still to set on a booth in Okhla in south Delhi, where the last of the voters were pushing the button and propelling the statewide turnout above 67 per cent.
The figure — as well as queuing up beyond the 5pm deadline — may not merit a second glance in Bengal where turnouts nudge 80 per cent and voting sometimes stretches up to 1am.
However, for Delhi, December 4 will go down as an ink-letter day. Even at the peak of the euphoria over statehood, the first Assembly elections in Delhi in 1993 had not drawn more than 61.75 per cent of the electorate. The figure had not been breached — until this afternoon. (See chart)
The tide turned in the afternoon today, throwing up the big question: did the Unknown bring out the hordes and, if so, which one, AAP or Nota. BJP leaders will be looking for clues to the Narendra Modi effect while the Congress appeared set to lay credit or blame at the door of Sheila Dikshit.
The turnout appears to have increased across the board but wherever Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had fielded strong candidates, the post-dusk surge was hard to miss.
The debut of None-of- the-above (Nota) feature also drew some. “This election has given us a unique opportunity of pressing the Nota button,” said Arvind Tyagi, who voted in Vikaspuri in west Delhi.
In Dikshit’s constituency, New Delhi, where Kejriwal is seen as a formidable challenger, the voting percentage went up to 74.5 per cent. In RK Puram, the south Delhi constituency where the AAP’s Shazia Ilmi is running against three-time Congress MLA Barkha Singh, the turnout was as high as 80.5 per cent.
Greater Kailash, which saw 50 per cent polling in 2008, had shot past 78 per cent by 6.30pm.
Hordes of youths were seen outside many booths. “The youths are fed up with the present set of politicians. We want change,” said Rakesh Chaturvedi, a young architect. Rakesh, a first-time voter, did not offer vocal support to any party but indicated his choice by laying stress on the word “change”.
Some voters openly admitted divisions within the family with the young generation picking up the “broom” and the older lot choosing between the Congress and the BJP.
“I have always been voting for the BJP and there is no reason for me to change my choice. But my daughter, a first-time voter, decided to vote for the AAP,” said businessman Krishan Mohan Tucker.
Tucker’s daughter Vasudha, a BBA student, said that although she had no knowledge of the AAP candidate in Moti Nagar, she opted for the broom for a corruption-free government.
But traditional loyalties were also holding fast. “Our colonies were established by Indira Gandhi, so we first voted for her son and now his grandson’s man. We do not know anything about the Aam Aadmi Party,” said Som Vati of the Kichripur constituency, on the outskirts of Delhi.
Yogendra Yadav, the psephologist and AAP spokesperson, said voters who had never stepped out in the past had come out for the change promised by the party that is fighting on the “broom” symbol. “There was a silent wave and it was for change,” he said.
BJP sources credited the tail-end surge to the RSS’s mobilisation might. Party leaders said that the parent body deployed cadres to draw people out of their homes.
Some BJP leaders sensed tailwinds for Modi ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. “The change promised by Narendra Modi drew the voters, particularly the elite, out of their homes,” said Virendra Sachdeva, the head of the BJP’s training cell in Delhi.