People of Karnataka cannot be characterised as being particularly enthusiastic about the electoral process. Polling percentage has crossed the 70-mark only once in the history of Assembly elections since 1957. On the positive side, however, electors’ participation has never fallen below 60 per cent since 1972 .
The last four elections in Karnataka show a decline in people’s participation by 3.91 percentage points. While the poll percentage stood at 68.59 in 1994, it was 67.65 per cent in 1999, 65.17 per cent in 2007, and 64.68 per cent in the last election in 2008.
The 1978 record
Interestingly, the highest percentage of polling ever in Karnataka — 71.9 — was in the 1978 elections, immediately after the Emergency. While a strong anti-Congress wave swept the rest of the country, this election in Karnataka saw the party gathering 44.25 per cent of votes and winning 149 seats. This was the period when the late D. Devaraj Urs was at the helm and his programme of promoting and empowering backward classes had created a huge wave.
The 1978 election also saw a phenomenal rise in the percentage of women voter participation. It was 67.89 per cent, up from 56.88 per cent in 1972. However, not surprisingly, fewer women have voted compared to men from the first election till now, consistently. While Karnataka’s average voter participation in elections is about 65 per cent, that of women is around 63 per cent.
Picture of contrast
The absence of a dramatic rise or fall in the Karnataka voters’ enthusiasm, with one exception, makes an interesting contrast to other States. In neighbouring Tamil Nadu, while the polling percentage in 2001 Assembly elections was 59, it was 70 in 2006, and 78 in 2011, which adds up to a rise of 19 percentage points in a decade. In Uttar Pradesh, which has seen tumultuous social mobility, polling percentage was 45.96 in 2007 and it rose to 59.40 in 2012, a dramatic rise of nearly 14 percentage points.