“If you get fooled on April 1, you will be a fool for just one day. But, if you get fooled on April 17, you will be a fool for next five years. Beware!!! Vote wisely.” This has been a widely shared post on social media platforms like Facebook for several weeks now ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Voter turnout in Bangalore has traditionally remained poor in comparison to the rest of the State. Social scientists attribute the phenomenon to the fact that the urban middle class are alienated from the political process. The percentage of polling in other metropolitan cities of the country during the past elections has been no different except during the last two polls in Delhi when there was an increase in the polling percentage, and that has been attributed to the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the scene.

But, the gradual increase in voter turnout in Bangalore over the last three elections has spurred hopes of a possible increase in the voter turnout in the city on April 17. Poll percentage in Bangalore urban, which was 49.87 in 2008 Assembly polls and 45.81 in 2009 Lok Sabha polls, went up to 57.38 in the Assembly polls in May 2103.

Political scientist and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Jain University Sandeep Shastri said the “increased visibility” of the campaigns carried out to encourage people to exercise their franchise by citizen groups, the Election Commission and the government agencies had helped “sensitise” the electorate that their “vote matters”, particularly for the younger voters concerned about their future.

Prof. Shastri also sees “a change of heart” among the urban voters with the introduction of NOTA (None of the Above) in the electronic voting machines to reject all the candidates in the fray.

Rajeev Chandrashekar, MP, said the buzz about the elections on the social media platforms was at an “all-time high.” There are at least 15 lakh people in Bangalore who have chosen politics and social concerns as their areas of interest on social media platforms, he said.

Notwithstanding the apprehensions expressed over a possible poor turnout in view of the long weekend – April 18 is a government holiday on account of Good Friday followed by Saturday and Sunday – the former Minister B.K. Chandrashekar said the intensive campaigns by mainstream political parties to reach out to the voters this time could also help improve voter turnout. Good response for the padayatras and road shows was already an indication, he said.

Several NGOs and private enterprises too have started offering incentives to voters. While an eye hospital has offered 50 per cent discount in consultation fees for patients showing the indelible ink mark, a charitable trust has announced that it will provide photocopying facility for students at the rate of 25 paise per side if they or their parents come with the indelible ink. A lounge bar has offered a glass of wine to persons showing proof of having cast their vote in the Lok Sabha elections.

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