Voting begins in polls in Indian capitalBy AP News Dec 04, 2013 5:24PM UTC
NEW DELHI (AP) — Tens of thousands of New Delhi residents lined up Wednesday to vote in polls just months before the country holds its general elections.
The incumbent Congress Party’s top elected official Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is seeking a fourth consecutive term. Opposing her are the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man’s Party.
Security was tight, with 65,000 police officers and additional paramilitary troops on duty to prevent any outbreak of violence at the more than 11,000 polling stations across the capital.
Nearly 12 million Delhi residents are expected to vote to select the 70-member Delhi Assembly, in a poll that analysts say was expected to show a trend for the three parties heading into next year’s national elections in the world’s biggest democracy.
The nine-month-old AAP, led by Arvind Kejriwal, a former tax official turned anti-corruption crusader, is threatening to play spoiler by weaning voters away from the two main parties.
In recent weeks, an army of AAP volunteers have trudged through the alleys of the city’s poorest neighborhoods to try to tap a deep vein of dissatisfaction that has gripped New Delhi residents, particularly over corruption and a soaring cost of living.
The BJP’s campaign has highlighted runaway inflation, growing crimes against women and shortages of power and water in the city of nearly 17 million people.
“It is time for the Congress to quit,” said Harsh Vardhan, the party’s candidate for the chief minister’s post.
He appeared to voice some concern of a possible spoiler role for the AAP, saying a vote for Kejriwal would be “a wasted vote.”
Dikshit stressed her party’s development agenda over the past 15 years, citing the city’s popular subway system, numerous overpasses and environmental efforts among the achievements of her tenure.
Early Wednesday, Dikshit and Congress Party chief, Sonia Gandhi, cast their vote at a polling station in central New Delhi. They then showed their inked fingers to television cameras before appealing to citizens to come out and vote.
Their appeal appeared to work in the poorer neighborhoods of the capital, where people crowded polling stations. In contrast, the turnout was low in the more affluent pockets of the city.