A good number of Punekars queued up outside polling booths on election on Tuesday but did not cast their votes when their turn came.
Instead, they chose to exercise the ‘negative vote’ option by signing against their names on the electoral roll but abstaining from actual voting.
Returning officer for the Kothrud Assembly constituency Rajendra Muthe told The Hindu, “There was a good response to the option of casting a negative vote. This option was available for the Lok Sabha elections as well. However, it hadn’t been publicised sufficiently then. Pune District Collector then took steps to popularise the option before the Assembly elections, and hence the response.”
At a press conference after the polling process was over, Collector Chandrakant Dalvi said, “We don’t have the exact figures about how many people cast negative votes. But a sizeable number of people opted for it. At the start of the day, there were cases of people who wanted to cast negative votes but were told no such option existed. This was corrected in the latter part of the day.”
In the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, 49-O is a section giving the elector the option of not recording his vote. A remark to this effect is made against the elector’s entry in form 17A by the presiding officer.
However, this option only serves to register the elector’s disapproval of the choice of candidates. Even if the number of negative votes cast in a constituency exceeds the winning margin, the candidate with the highest number of votes will be declared as elected.
While some refrained from voting in this manner, there were long queues at several polling booths in the district even after 5 p.m. As a result, polling was allowed to carry on even after the deadline in constituencies like Indapur, Baramati and Shirur.
On the whole, Pune district recorded a voter turnout of 38.88 per cent by 3 p.m. After polling was completed at all polling booths, the voter turnout was expected to go up to 50 to 52 per cent.
However, the urban-rural divide was seen in Pune district as well, like in other parts of the State. While voter turnout was expected to touch 60 per cent in the rural parts of the district, in Pune city it remained well under 50 per cent.
Mr. Dalvi said the polling process went off peacefully “except for a few minor, stray incidents of violence.” At the polling booth at Shivraj School in the Vadgaon Sheri constituency, the police had to resort to lathi charge to disperse voters of a particular party who refused to leave even after they had voted. A case of rioting was registered against them.
At Bhimashankar, 128 km from Pune, 11 workers of the NCP were arrested after they smashed cars belonging to Shiv Sena workers.