New Delhi: After a fierce triangular battle in the Delhi municipal polls, the stage is now set for counting of votestoday with the verdict likely to have political ramifications beyond the national capital's borders. The high-stakes civic polls were held on April 23which saw a voter turnout of 53.58 per cent, a shade higher than in the 2012 elections.
"We are all working as per the schedule. All the EVMs have been deposited with due seal and counting will begin at 8 AM. There are 35 counting centres and we are all geared up," Delhi State Election Commissioner S K Srivastava said.
The three main players -- the AAP, the BJP and the Congress -- had campaigned intensely ahead of the polls and all of them are expecting a favourable mandate, even as an exit poll has predicted a "landslide victory" for the saffron party.
The verdict is expected to reshape the political equations in the country's power capital.
The result will also determine whether the sway of Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, which had stunned all by bagging 67 seats out of 70 in the 2015 Delhi Assembly polls, still holds and whether the party would be able to put behind its humiliating Rajouri Garden bypoll defeat.
Kejriwal's party had also suffered a defeat in Punjab and a whitewash in Goa Assembly polls.
However, the AAP national convener refused to acknowledge the bye-election verdict as a "trailer of the MCD polls".
He had yesterdaywarned of launching a "movement" if the MCD exit poll results, which have predicted a BJP sweep, come true.
Polling was held in 270 of the 272 wards of the three municipal corporations. The election to two wards has been postponed due to the death of candidates.
The BJP, which is seeking to retain the turf it has held for the last 10 years, has fielded fresh faces in 267 wards.
It had expelled its Narela ward candidate from the party for allegedly allowing sacked AAP minster Sandeep Kumar to campaign for her.
The Congress, which finished second in the Rajouri Garden bypoll, is hoping for a resurgence and banked on its big guns during campaigns to shore up its fortune, despite infighting.
It has fielded 271 candidates.
While the BJP's move to field new candidates was seen as a strategy to counter anti-incumbency, the party claimed it was to "give opportunity to the next generation".
The BJP is betting big on the contest. Addressing booth- level workers during the campaigning, party chief Amit Shah had said a favourable verdict in the MCD polls could be a stepping stone to victory in the next Delhi Assembly elections.
On the day of polling, which had begun on a sluggish note and picked up pace later in the day, the AAP continued to raise the issue of "faulty EVMs" with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal railing at the state election body.
The final tally of votes came in just before midnight, as a ward in south Delhi witnessed "extremely brisk voting" late in the evening.
As per the records of the Delhi poll commission, the polling percentage in 2012 was 53.43 per cent, which was the highest in 15 years. The 2012 civic polls was also the first election after the trifurcation of the MCD into the NDMC, the SDMC and the EDMC, the same year.
As many as 71,39,994 votes were polled onApril 23. South Delhi polled maximum 26,87,685 votes, followed by North Delhi at 26,80,011. East Delhi polled 17,72,298 votes.
Over 1.32 crore electorate were eligible to vote in the polls. While the male vote share stood at 54.04 per cent, the figure for women was pegged at 53.02. 93 votes were polled by people belonging to the other category.
North Delhi Municipal Corporation's Bakhtawarpur ward recorded the highest voter turnout at over 68 per cent, while south Delhi's Lado Sarai registered the least turnout at 39 per cent.
The Delhi State Election Commissioner, on the day of the polling had said that 18 electronic voting machines (EVMs) were replaced owing to battery or button-related issues.
"Out of 13,000 polling stations, EVMs were changed in only 18 polling stations. It shows our EVMs are unhackable, robust and no wrong can be done," he had said.
This was the first civic poll after the latest delimitation in which the civic wards were redrawn.
Incidentally, in May last year, bypolls to 13 wards were held, in which the AAP had finished on the top with five seats, followed by the Congress with 4, the BJP at 3. One seat had gone to an independent candidate.