NEW DELHI, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- The Indian capital Wednesday witnessed a record voter turnout - 66 percent - in the assembly polls in which more than 10 million residents were eligible to exercise their franchise to choose a new government for the state.
Such was the voter turnout that the country's independent Election Commission extended the polling by nearly two hours.
"It has been a good turnout all over Delhi," Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev told the media.
The voter turnout during the last assembly polls in Delhi was a little over 56 percent.
Local TV channels beamed footage of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit among the early voters.
In fact, this is for the first time that Delhi witnessed a three-party contest in the crucial elections - the ruling Congress party led by three-time 75-year-old Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Dr Harshvardan, and a new anti-graft Aam Admi Party (Common Man's Party) led by former civil servant Arvind Kejriwal.
While the Congress is seeking a fourth consecutive term in power, the BJP aims to dethrone it in the 70-member assembly. But, the new entrant, AAP, has also emerged as a crucial player in the polls which could well be a barometer to measure how the electorate may vote during the next general elections, barely six months away.
The results for the polls will be out on Sunday.
Though both the Congress and the BJP have ruled out the AAP being a serious contender in the hotly contested elections, political experts say that the first-time party - born out of a strong anti-corruption movement led by veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare - could upset their calculations.
"Over 800 candidates are contesting for the 70-member Delhi Assembly. The AAP has fielded its candidates in all 70 constituencies. It is likely that the AAP may get at least 10 to 15 seats which may upset the calculations of both the Congress and the BJP," said political analyst Prof S.K. Gupta.
The Congress is assuring "development," the BJP has promised to lower electricity costs and bring down rising vegetable prices if voted to power. The AAP has gone a step further, saying it will constitute a citizens' ombudsman, apart from cutting electricity prices and providing free water to residents.
"So, the AAP has a fair chance of getting some 10 to 15 seats which may ultimately result in a hung assembly even though leaders like Sonia Gandhi campaigned hard for the Congress and Narendra Modi for the BJP," another Delhi-based political expert Prof Ajay Sharma said.
Meanwhile, exit polls suggest a major setback for the Congress party.
According to the ABP News-Nielsen survey, the BJP is expected to get 32 seats, the Congress will grab 18 and the AAP 18, while others will manage only two seats. Times Now-C voter survey indicates that the Congress will bag 21 seats, BJP to win 29, and the AAP 16, while others will get four. India Today-ORG survey also predicted handsome victory for the BJP with 41 seats.
Whatever be the final outcome, the experts say that for the Congress and the BJP, Delhi is crucial ahead of next year's general elections.
"The outcome of the polls will indicate how the electorate may vote in the general elections slated for May 2014. Whether it would be Modi as the next Indian prime minister or the Congress' Rahul Gandhi," Prof Gupta said.