MCD Elections 2017: 54 per cent turnout amid EVM glitches, scorching heat

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MCD Elections in Delhi saw 54 per cent turnout
MCD Elections in Delhi saw 54 per cent turnout

New Delhi : Millions of voters in the national capital on Sunday exercised their democratic right amid EVM glitches to pick three new municipal bodies in an election crucial for all three main contenders - the BJP, Congress and the AAP.

According to the State Election Commission, 54 per cent of the 1.32 crore electorate had exercised their franchise in polling that ended at 5.30 p.m., the turnout hit by intense midday heat.

Residents reported "low" voting in many areas but in many others there were long queues of men and women keen to pick three wings of a municipal corporation that covers almost the whole of Delhi.

The balloting was peaceful but both voters and political parties reported numerous cases of malfunctioning of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which themselves have come under a cloud.

The Aam Aadmi Party, which rules Delhi, and the Congress want to end the 10-year reign of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the civic body, citing poor upkeep of the city's cleanliness. 

The BJP used Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to reclaim the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (104 seats), South Delhi Municipal Corporation (104 seats) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation (64 seats).

Polling did not take place in two wards - Maujpur in East Delhi and Sarai Pipal Thala in North Delhi - where a candidate each of the Samajwadi Party died.

Even as the polling was on, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said reports of EVM malfunctioning came from all over the capital. He also tweeted that many people with voter slips were not allowed to vote.

Kejriwal, who has been up against the Centre's ruling BJP and the Election Commission over the EVM tampering, has repeatedly flayed the State poll panel for using pre-2006 balloting machines in the civic polls. 

BJP leader Arvinder Singh Lovely, who recently quit the Congress, could not vote because the EVM in his polling station - there were 13,022 in all - broke down. 

By 3 p.m., the AAP "War Room" reported 250 calls from voters complaining about non-functional EVMs. The complaints came from several areas including Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's constituency Patparganj.

A Maharashtra Congress leader, Shehzad Poonawala, tweeted about the EVMs in Delhi: "Better we call them (E)xtremely (V)ulnerable (M)achines."

A total of 2,537 candidates were in the fray. 

Among others who contested the election are the Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal-United and Swaraj India of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan who were earlier Kejriwal's colleagues in the AAP.

The three civic bodies cover 68 of the 70 assembly constituencies in Delhi. The two smaller civic bodies are the Delhi Cantonment Board as well as the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).

Lt Governor Anil Baijal, Kejriwal, Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken and Delhi BJP leaders were among the early voters. 

"I urge the people of Delhi to vote for a filth-free Delhi, a dengue- and chikungunya-free Delhi," said Kejriwal after voting along with his family. 

Asked if the election was a referendum on his government's two-year performance, he replied: "We will see when the results come (on Wednesday)."

Maken rooted for the Congress.

"The BJP has done enough damage for 10 years. The only thing it has done is engaging in verbal duels with the AAP. People want sensible governance. Going by Congress' track record, they will vote for us," he said. 

Former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit reminded voters about the development work done by the previous Congress governments and asserted her party was gaining ground.

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi blamed the Kejriwal government for the capital mess and said she was confident her party would again control the civic body.

Some voters complained of poor organisation.

"Voter slips have not been given to many. This has created a lot of confusion. My wife and I didn't get any voter slips," Amit Basu, a voter from Chittaranjan Park in south Delhi, told IANS.

Through the day, EVMs which broke down were either quickly repaired or replaced by functional ones.