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1.2 crore voters to decide between BJP, Congress and AAP

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Voting began for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi in the third phase of the Lok Sabha polls today.

The electoral fight here is seen as a test of the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) perceived erosion of support base, the BJP’s claim of a ‘Modi wave’ and the assertion by the Congress that it was regaining lost ground after its drubbing in the last assembly polls.

The high-voltage contest also assumes greater significance as it may set the stage for possible assembly polls in the city in the next few months.

The campaign for the election saw main contenders — the BJP, the Congress and the fledgling AAP — engaging in a fierce race to woo 1.27 crore voters. Though Delhi has only seven Lok Sabha seats, the electoral outcome in the heart of the country carries a lot of significance due to political symbolism.

Though a total of 150 candidates are in the fray, including 58 Independents, the contest in all constituencies is likely to be three-way among the BJP, the AAP and the Congress.

For AAP, the election assumes greater significance as it will reflect people’s support to it after the newbie created history in the December 4 assembly polls by wresting 28 of the 70 seats and forming the government.

Kejriwal had faced severe criticism for quitting from the government after remaining in power for 49 days. Both the Congress and the BJP had mounted a shrill attack on Kejriwal and accused him of running away from responsibilities.

BJP’s campaign focussed on Narendra Modi and the election will determine whether the ‘Modi wave’ had any impact. If the party performs well, then it may press for early assembly polls. The BJP had won 31 seats in the assembly polls but refused to form the government.

“Your vote for our seven candidates in Delhi is a vote for me. Vote for them and help me build a strong and prosperous India,” Modi appealed to the people through advertisements in the dailies today.

Almost all top party leaders including Modi, L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley campaigned in the city.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had drawn a blank in the 2009 polls, while the Congress had won all the seven seats.

After its massive defeat in the assembly polls in December last year, the Congress through its campaign tried hard to win back the support of the people through rallies and house-to-house contact programmes.

The party was routed in the assembly polls and it could win only eight seats. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-president Rahul Gandhi had addressed separate rallies in the city.

AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal held roadshows and public meetings across the city but its candidates mainly focused on connecting with people through door-to-door visits.

In the prestigious Chandni Chowk constituency, Union minister Kapil Sibal is facing a tough fight from BJP’s Harsh Vardhan and journalist-turn-politician Ashutosh of the AAP in his bid to retain the seat for the third time.

In East Delhi, incumbent MP Sandeep Dikshit is pitted against BJP’s Maheish Girri and AAP’s Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. (Key Fights: East Delhi)

A tough triangular contest is in the offing in the high-profile New Delhi constituency where Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken is facing two first-time contenders in BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi and Ashish Khaitan from the AAP.

An interesting battle is on the cards among BJP’s Udit Raj, AAP’s Rakhi Birla and Congress’ Krishna Tirath in North West Delhi. The Dalit community, which comprises over 20 per cent of the total voters, may hold sway in the seat.

In South Delhi, BJP candidate Ramesh Bidhuri was pitted against Devender Sehrawat of the AAP and Congress’ Ramesh Kumar.

The BJP has fielded Bhojpuri singer Manoj Tiwari in the North East Delhi seat where AAP’s Anand Kumar and Congress’ J P Agarwal are the other prominent contenders.

There are 29 contenders from the New Delhi constituency, the highest for any seat, while the lowest of 14 is in the North West seat.

Nearly 50,000 security personnel, apart from 161 flying squads of police and video surveillance teams, have been deployed as part of elaborate preparations to ensure fair and peaceful polls in Delhi.

The Election Commission said it has done away with the provision of voter cards and voter slips being mandatory to cast vote.

Polling will be held in 11,763 polling stations out of which 327 have been declared critical and 90 hyper-critical.

Voting will start at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm.

For the first time, Delhi residents will be able to exercise their franchise even if they do not have Electors Photo Identity Card (voter card) but have their names registered in the electoral roll.

Encouraged by the ‘historic’ voter turnout in the recently held Delhi assembly elections, Delhi’s Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev appealed to Delhi residents to come out and vote and said he was hopeful about a better polling percentage this time.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the overall voting percentage was 52.3 per cent, which increased to 66 per cent in the 2013 Delhi assembly election.

The Delhi Election Commission said it was confident of surpassing the figure of 66 per cent.

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