New Delhi: Delhi will vote on Saturday to elect a new government after witnessing a blistering campaign in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled no punches against the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is eyeing a second term.
The Congress is the third contender in the elections to be contested by 672 candidates in the fray for 70 Assembly seats.
Over 1.47 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. Polling will begin at 8 am and end at 6 pm. Results will be declared on February 11.
AAP will go into the elections hoping to repeat its performance from the last Assembly polls when it notched up 54.3% votes in the 2015 elections.
The BJP, which bagged all seven seats in Delhi the Lok Sabha elections last May and secured 32% of the votes in the 2015 Assembly polls, will be aiming to expand its vote share in the national capital.
The Congress had bagged just 9.6% of the total votes polled in 2015, failing to bag a single seat, but improved its vote share in the Lok Sabha elections.
Blistering electoral campaign
The BJP mounted one of its most aggressive campaigns in the Delhi Assembly polls, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah leading the charge based on the planks of Hindutva and nationalism and its strident opposition to the protests at Shaheen Bagh against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The AAP, on the other hand, tried to hard-sell its development agenda, while the Congress sought to showcase its achievements during its 15-year rule under Sheila Dikshit from 1998 to 2013.
Riding on tech-savvy elements like QR codes and mobile apps, electoral authorities have made tight security arrangements across Delhi, keeping extra vigil in Shaheen Bagh and other sensitive polling areas.
The Delhi CEO Office has put all five polling stations in Shaheen Bagh under the "critical" category and confidence-building measures are continuously being undertaken to reassure voters, officials said.
Shaheen Bagh falls in the Okhla assembly constituency. The area has become the epicentre of anti-CAA protests in Delhi and political parties have turned it into a poll issue.
The police have deployed around 40,000 security personnel, 19,000 home guards and 190 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to ensure smooth conduct of the polls.
Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Ranbir Singh said 1,47,86,382 people are eligible to vote in the polls of which 2,32,815 are in the age group of 18-19.
Voters in various categories include males (81,05,236), females (66,80,277), service voters (11,608), third gender voters (869), and senior citizens (aged 80 and above) voters (2,04,830), officials said.
There are 13,750 polling booths, besides one auxiliary booth, located at 2,689 locations across Delhi.
"As far as critical polling stations are concerned, there are 516 locations and 3,704 booths in that category," Singh said.
Besides police security, stations falling in the "critical category" get paramilitary cover. Activities will be monitored through webcasting, he said.
Relaxed Friday before Saturday showdown
The bitterly fought high-octane campaign that lasted for over three weeks ended at 6 pm on Thursday, just 38 hours before the start of voting. On Friday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and BJP's Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari paid obeisance at famous temples in the city.
Kejriwal and his wife Sunita offered prayers at the famous Hanuman Temple at Connaught Place.
"Sought blessings of Hanuman ji at famous Hanuman temple at CP. Bhagwan ji said-'You are doing good work. Continue serving people like this. Leave the outcome to me, all will be fine," Kejriwal said in a tweet in Hindi.
Tiwari visited the famous Chhatarpur and Kalkaji temples and offered prayers.
"I prayed for the happiness of the people of Delhi and also sought blessings of the goddesses to enable people to cast their vote judiciously," he said.
However, a day before the polls, the Election Commission issued a show cause notice to Kejriwal for violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
Security personnel kept guard at strong rooms storing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Election staff carried EVMs and other polling material to booths under tight supervision in all constituencies.
Poll authorities had met protesters recently and encouraged them to vote on the polling day.
"The 2020 Delhi polls will be tech-driven with greater use of technology elements like mobile apps, QR codes, social media interface, seeking to enhance the experience of all categories of voters, before polling or on the voting day. And we are trying to make the best use of it," said Singh.
Electors can carry smartphones at polling stations in 11 constituencies for accessing QR codes from the voters' helpline app in case they have not brought the voters' slip to the booth.
(With inputs from agencies)