Delhi: After a fierce triangular battle in the Delhi municipal polls, the stage is now set for counting of votes on Wednesday in which stakes are high for BJP, Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress.
The polls held on April 23 saw a voter turnout of 53.58 percent, with the final tally of votes coming in just before midnight, as a ward in south Delhi had witnessed "extremely brisk voting" late that evening.
As many as 71,39,994 votes were polled on Sunday for elections to 270 of the 272 wards, spanning over the three corporations.
The election to two wards, one each in the NDMC and EDMC, has been postponed due to the death of candidates.
The three main players 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 result will 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 yesterday warned of launching a 'movement' if the MCD exit poll results, which have predicted a BJP sweep, come true.
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.
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.
(With PTI inputs)