Counting of votes polled in the high-stakes Delhi Assembly elections is set to take place on Tuesday, with exit polls predicting a big win for the ruling Aam Aadmi Party even as Bharatiya Janata Party leaders maintained that the surveys will fall flat.
IMAGE: Security personnel stand guard outside a strong room at a counting centre in Akshardham, New Delhi. Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photo
Strong rooms spread across the city storing the electronic voting machines (EVMs) are being heavily guarded, with a ‘three-layer security ring’, Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Ranbir Singh told PTI.
“We are all geared up for the counting tomorrow and elaborate security arrangements have been put in place. The exercise will be carried out as per the laid-down procedures of the Election Commission,” he said.
The inner-most security layer, near the strong rooms, is that of the paramilitary, followed by armed policemen and then police personnel forming the outermost layer, he added.
Tight security arrangements have also been put in place at various centres across the national capital.
The curiosity among people to know the outcome of the elections to the 70-member Delhi Assembly has heightened post-exit polls, that has forecast a big win for the ruling AAP.
BJP leaders have, however, maintained that the exit poll results that predicted its defeat in the Delhi polls will ‘fail’ as the surveys did not take into account the votes polled in the evening.
The election, largely seen as a battle between the AAP and the BJP, which went aggressive during the high-octane campaign was held on Saturday, sealing the fate of 672 candidates — 593 men and 79 women.
Nearly 24 hours after the polling ended in Delhi, the Election Commission on Sunday announced that the final voter turnout was 62.59 per cent, five per cent less than 2015, and asserted that it followed the laid down process to compile data, after the AAP questioned the ‘delay’.
The Delhi CEO said the counting will begin at 8 am sharp and will be held in multiple rounds.
“The postal ballots will be counted first till 8.30 am and then the votes cast through EVMs will be counted,” he said.
“The CUs (controls units) of the EVMs will be transported tomorrow morning to the counting centres before the beginning of the exercise.
“The centres are spread across 21 locations, spanning the 70 constituencies. Each centre will have several counting halls, equal to the number of constituencies falling in that district,” Singh said.
Each EVM consists of a ballot unit (BU), a controls units (CU) and a voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT.)
From every assembly constituency, five VVPATs will be randomly selected and they will be counted, he said.
The counting centres are located across the 11 districts, including at CWG Sports Complex in East Delhi, NSIT Dwarka in West Delhi, Meerabai Institute of Technology and G B Pant Institute of Technology in Southeast Delhi, Sir CV Raman ITI, Dheerpur in Central Delhi, and Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Bawana in North Delhi.
There will be 33 counting observers, officials said.
There were 13,780 polling booths where every vote was accounted for by the presiding officers which is a time-consuming exercise, Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena said at a press conference on Sunday.
Critical and vulnerable polling locations, numbered 545 and spanned 3,843 booths.
In view of the ongoing anti-CAA protest in Shaheen Bagh, the Delhi CEO’s Office had put all five polling stations in the area under the ‘critical’ category.
Security personnel kept guard at strong rooms storing electronic voting machines (EVMs).
The Delhi chief electoral officer, a day ahead of the polls, had said all EVMs were tested and they were ‘foolproof and non-tamperable’.
Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP sought to retain power on development plank, against the BJP that ran an aggressive campaign centred around the issues of anti-CAA protests and nationalism.
Most exit polls also predicted that the Congress is unlikely to open its account even this time in Delhi, which it ruled from 1998 to 2013.
Looking to capture power after 22 years, the BJP had mounted one of the most aggressive campaigns in the Delhi Assembly polls, with Union Home Minister Amit Shah leading the saffron charge on its planks of Hindutva and nationalism, and its strident opposition to Shaheen Bagh protests.
The issue often dominated the political discourse during the campaign, with many BJP leaders targeting the AAP, and the Congress, accusing them of ‘misleading people’ holding anti-CAA protests in Delhi.
A section of voters on Saturday claimed that the prolonged street agitation demanding revocation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was ‘not an issue in the beginning of the campaign” but “political parties had slowly turned it into one’.
Ballimaran constituency recorded the highest voter turnout of 71.6 per cent among all the 70 assembly seats in the national capital, while Delhi Cantonment brought up the rear in polling percentage, according to data shared by officials on Sunday.
Okhla constituency recorded 58.84 per cent. Shaheen Bagh and Jamia Nagar fall in Okhla assembly constituency, where hectic polling had taken place till late afternoon.
Shaheen Bagh has been the epicentre of anti-CAA protests in Delhi, running into over 50 days now.
Over 1.47 crore people were eligible to vote in the Delhi polls, including 2,32,815 in the age group of 18-19.
The turnout in the 2015 Assembly polls stood at 67.47 per cent.
The AAP had routed rival parties bagging 67 seats and the BJP was reduced to mere three seats, while the Congress had drawn a blank.