Indian capital votes amid Mumbai terror shadow (Fourth Lead)

November 29th, 2008 - 6:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Nov 29 (IANS) Millions voted in the Indian capital Saturday to pick a new government as Mumbai’s terror drama overshadowed the battle for power between the ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Over 30 percent of the 10.5 million electorate had exercised their franchise by evening peacefully. But officials reported stray incidents of violence in a handful of areas.

There are a total of 863 candidates in the fray in 69 constituencies. Balloting in the Rajinder Nagar seat was postponed following the death of the BJP candidate, apparently due to suicide.

The contest for Delhi is part of assembly elections in six states whose outcome is expected to have a bearing on parliamentary elections expected early next year.

And with terrorists who Indian officials say came from Pakistan killing 162 people in Mumbai, the brazen display of mayhem cast a long shadow over the elections in the national capital.

The main contest in Delhi is between the Congress, which has ruled the city since 1998 and is certain of another five-year term, and a confident BJP, now led by veteran Vijay Kumar Malhotra.

Although the BJP and Congress are traditionally the big players in Delhi, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded candidates in all the seats this time and is widely expected to hurt both of them.

BJP leaders insisted that the failure of the Congress-led governments in New Delhi and Maharashtra to foil the stealthy entry of terrorists into Mumbai by the sea would fetch them rich dividends.

At least some voters IANS spoke to appeared to agree.

“I have voted for change,” said Mayank Sharma, a 19-year-old college student, voting for the first time in any election. “I want the government to look seriously at issues such as terrorism and price rise.”

Mayank was among the early voters, and he was accompanied by his election-veteran parents.

Vidhu Aggarwal, another teenager, admitted that he was voting for the BJP “because there is no one else who deserves my vote”. But she criticised both the BJP and Congress for allegedly “playing politics” over the terror drama in Mumbai.

A lawyer couple who came to a polling centre with their young children said they would be voting differently — for varying reasons.

Husband Ashish Sharma said he would go for the BJP because that has been the family’s traditional choice. Wife Manisha said she would vote for anyone but the Congress because she was unhappy with the party’s nominee in her constituency.

Most of the 10,993 polling stations saw only a trickle of voters as balloting opened at 8 a.m. But polling picked up rapidly as chilly weather slowly gave way to a bright sun.

Supporters of rival parties clashed in a few places.

Ten people were injured outside a polling station in Tughlaqabad as BJP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) activists clashed. A few men roughed up an election official in Wazirpur.

Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supporters were locked in a fight in Rajouri Garden constituency.

Polling was delayed by one-and-a-half hours at three polling booths in Hauz Khas area following procedural confusion. The BJP lodged a complaint with the Election Commission.

“We want the election rescheduled here as many voters returned home without voting,” Delhi Mayor Aarti Mehra of the BJP told IANS.

Polling was temporarily suspended at four other polling booths after some electronic voting machines failed.

While the BJP is fighting this election in alliance with the Akali Dal, the Congress is on its own. Besides BSP, the other contenders are the NCP and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

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