2,400 candidates will vie for voters' attention in the national capital on Sunday when Delhiites go out to vote for the municipal elections, an exercise tipped as a semi-final ahead of next year's assembly polls.
The polls to the 272 wards in the three civic bodies -- East, North and South -- carved out of the existing Municipal Corporation of Delhi will begin at 8 am and ends at 5:30 pm. The counting of votes will take place on Tuesday.
With campaigning ending at an unusual time of 5:30 am Saturday, political parties and candidates, a large chunk of them Independents, spent a sleepless night wooing voters at the last minute.
The municipal polls is seen as crucial for Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Congress as well as opposition BJP with leaders believing that it could be an indicator for what is in store for the assembly polls which is 18 months away.
BJP, which has 164 councillors in the undivided MCD against Congress' 67 and BSP's 17, harps on alleged corruption by Dikshit government while Congress is targeting the saffron party on its "inefficient and corrupt" administration in MCD.
The run-up to the polls also saw some embarrassment for BJP when one of its candidates, a sitting councillor, was arrested for allegedly murdering a partyman, who was opposed to him. Councilor Madhav Prasad was granted bail Saturday.
A total of 1.12 crore eligible voters will exercise their franchise in the polls which include 42.95 lakh voters in North Delhi Municipal Corporation, 42.67 lakh voters in South Delhi corporation and 27.16 lakh voters in East Delhi corporation.
There are 104 each wards in South and North Corporations and 64 in the East, of which 138 seats are reserved for women. South has the highest number of 904 candidates followed by North (885) and East (634).
The state election commission has made elaborate arrangements for tomorrow's polling by deploying around 70,000 officials for conducting the polls and over 30,000 police personnel for security.
A total of 55 polling stations have been identified as hyper-sensitive while 275 have been declared as sensitive out of 11,500 polling stations.
Most of the hyper-sensitive and sensitive polling stations fall under assembly segments of Jamia Nagar, Chandni Chowk and Seelampur.
The main contenders are BJP and Congress, but smaller parties like Samajwadi Party and BSP are giving sleepless nights to them.
Though in public both the parties make claims about clean sweep in the elections, leaders in Congress and BJP are keeping their fingers crossed as the polls are nearing.
Presence of rebels and independents are also keeping both the parties on their toes as they believe that they could play spoilsport for them. The two parties have also expelled a number of leaders to send a strong message to their cadre.
As the campaign entered a hectic phase, Dikshit and her cabinet colleagues, Union Minister Ajay Maken and DPCC chief Jai Prakash Aggarwal had hit the streets.
From the BJP side, almost all Delhi leaders, including Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly V K Malhotra and Delhi BJP chief Vijender Gupta are on campaign trail.
Gupta has earned the wrath of a section of his partymen over denial of party tickets. There was also criticism from within the party about poll ticket to his wife Shobha from Rohini Central ward where she is pitted in a direct fight with Congress' Dr Monica Puri.
While BJP has fielded Delhi Mayor Rajni Abbi, Leader of MCD House Subhash Arya and MCD Standing Committee Chairman Yogender Chandolia, it omitted prominent councillors like Jagdish Mamgain from the electoral scene.
After BJP (272) and Congress (271), BSP has fielded the highest number of 254 candidates followed by Samajwadi Party at 105, NCP (81) and LJP (68).
Kashmir-based National Conference, Orissa's Biju Janata Dal and Muslim League have fielded one each candidate while CPI(M), CPI and Forward Bloc have fielded 35 candidates together. BJP-ally JD(U) has fielded 43 candidates.
Panthers Party has fielded 15 while JD(S) has 13 nominees in the fray, besides Lalu Prasad-led RJD's 23 and Ajit Singh- led RLD's 20.
Congress leaders claim that they have fielded 110 candidates below the age of 40 years, including 30 who are below 30 years. BJP has fielded eight candidates who are below 30 years.
One of the interesting fight will be in Zakir Nagar where terror accused Zia-ur-Rehman is fighting the elections from behind the bars. His family and supporters are campaigning on his behalf.
An analysis by Association of Democratic Reforms said that BJP has fielded the highest number of 39 candidates with criminal background followed by Congress (28). The report was done after the NGO went through 1,485 affidavits of poll candidates.
On the assets front, it said Congress has fielded a maximum of 116 crorepatis while BJP has fielded 103 crorepatis.
There are 342 crorepatis contesting the election and BJP candidate Satvinder Kaur Sirsa, contesting from Punjabi Bagh ward tops the list of crorepatis with assets worth Rs 112 crore followed by Karuna Bhalla, BJP candidate in Khyala with assets worth Rs 50 crore.