Slow, smooth start to voting in Delhi (Lead)

May 7th, 2009 - 12:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) Voting got off to a quiet start across the national capital’s seven parliamentary seats with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit among the early birds and officials optimistic that the not-so-hot weather would see more people coming out as the day 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 9 a.m., nine percent of the voters had exercised their franchise.

“Voting is going very smoothly in all polling station. 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.

Besides Sonia Gandhi and Dikshit, the first two 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 possible.”

The capital’s constituencies are Chandni Chowk, Northeast Delhi, East Delhi, New Delhi, Northwest Delhi, West Delhi and South Delhi.

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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