Indian capital votes amid Mumbai terror shadow (Roundup)

November 29th, 2008 - 8:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Nov 29 (IANS) Over five million people voted Saturday to elect a new government in the Indian capital, with Mumbai’s terror drama casting a shadow on the battle for power mainly between the ruling Congress and a resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).At least 51 percent of the 10.5 million electorate exercised their franchise in nine hours of balloting till 5 p.m., the Election Commission said. There were stray incidents of violence in an otherwise peaceful affair.

There were a total of 863 candidates in the fray in 69 constituencies. Voting 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 the Lok Sabha elections due early next year.

Soaring food prices were a major campaign issue. And with terrorists who Indian officials say came from Pakistan killing 183 people in Mumbai, the brazen display of mayhem cast a shadow over the elections in the national capital.

Political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao told IANS: “Primarily the impact of Mumbai would be on urban voters as the terror drama is so fresh in the minds of people. I think the Congress is likely to suffer as they have governments in the centre (Delhi) and the state (Maharashtra).”

The main contest in Delhi is between the Congress, which has ruled the city since 1998 and is hoping for another five-year term, and a BJP led by warhorse Vijay Kumar Malhotra.

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

BJP leaders said 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.”

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 also appeared to tilt towards the BJP.

Husband Ashish Sharma said he would go for the BJP because that was his family’s choice. Wife Manisha said she was unhappy with the Congress 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 BSP activists clashed. A few men roughed up an election official in Wazirpur.

Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supporters fought 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. Delhi Mayor Aarti Mehra of BJP demanded fresh election in the area.

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.

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