Delhi sees 18 percent polling in four hours (Second Lead)

May 7th, 2009 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) The capital witnessed nearly 18 percent voter turnout in the first four hours of polling even as poll officials expressed optimism that the not-so-hot day would see more people coming out as the hours passed.
Polling began at 7 a.m. across the 11,348 polling booths in the capital. The number of eligible voters is about 11.09 million - nearly four million of them in the age group of 18-29.

Till 11 a.m., 17.53 percent of voters had exercised their franchise. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit were among the early birds.

“Voting is going very smoothly in all polling stations. Weather is not very hot so we can expect a lot of people to turn up. Shades and water have been made available at all the polling stations,” Delhi Election Commission chief Satbir Silas Bedi told IANS.

The highest turnout was recorded in East Delhi at 23.9 percent and the lowest was recorded in Northwest Delhi at 13.28 percent. Chandni Chowk recorded 14 percent, Northeast Delhi 19.5 percent, New Delhi 15 percent, West Delhi 17 percent and South Delhi witnessed 20.5 percent of polling.

Besides Sonia Gandhi and Dikshit, the first few hours saw a turnout by other high profile voters like Vice President Hamid Ansari, former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Sonia Gandhi’s daughter and son-in-law Priyanka and Robert Vadra.

“I hope they (the Delhi voters) will be voting for a party and prime minister, who are serious about development and are ready to take the country forward,” Priyanka Gandhi said when she came to vote at the Lodhi Estate polling station near her home.

Sonia Gandhi exercised her franchise at the Nirman Bhawan polling station where she was accompanied by Dikshit and Ajay Maken, Congress candidate from the New Delhi constituency.

“Here is the responsibility to go out and vote. I guess the young are very enthusiastic to vote here,” Dikshit said while urging the Delhi voters to come out and vote.

Dikshit’s son and sitting MP Sandeep Dikshit is contesting from the East Delhi constituency. He cast his vote at the Pandara Road polling station.

“Congress will win on all seats and I’m confident that people in Delhi will come out in large numbers to vote,” union minister Maken said.

With low voter turnout in Mumbai making national headlines, SMS messages asking people to vote were doing the rounds.

One such read: “Vote Now! Please cast your vote immediately. Today is not a holiday. Your contribution to India. Don’t be a Pappu. Spread this to as many as possible.”

A total of 160 candidates are in the fray this time, compared to 129 in the 2004 elections.

The contest is mainly between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

More than 73,000 officials are conducting the voting. To ensure free and fair elections, 56,000 police personnel are deployed across the capital.

A total of 193 polling stations have been identified as sensitive and 32 as hyper-sensitive.

The polling will end at 5 p.m. The votes will be counted May 16.

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