In the wake of poor turnout in the first phase of Gujarat Assembly polls, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has appealed to the urban voters of Gujarat to come out in large numbers to vote in the second phase of polls to be held on December 5.
In the first phase of polling held on December 1, the turnout was 63.31%, which is lower than what was registered in 2017 when it polled 67.80% in 89 seats that went for voting in the first phase.
The first phase covered 19 districts of the Saurashtra and South Gujarat regions. Surat, Rajkot, and Jamnagar have recorded lower than the State average voter turnout of 63.3%, raising concerns about the voter apathy or fatigue factor in the crucial election.
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In a rare appeal in the middle of the election, the poll body tweeted: “Urban apathy continues unabated from Shimla to Surat. ECI appeals to voters of Gujarat to come out in large numbers during second phase to compensate for low voting in 1st phase.”
Particularly in urban pockets like Surat, Rajkot, and Jamnagar, which have been the bastions of the ruling party, a lower percentage of voting has raised concerns in Gujarat where this election has been a dull season despite high-voltage campaigning by the ruling party and the new political entrant — Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) — in the State.
Shocked by the lower turnout, the ruling party doubled down its campaigning for the second phase with Prime Minister Modi holding two mega roadshows in Ahmedabad city that goes for the polling in the second phase.
Other BJP leaders also held roadshows and addressed gatherings in the urban pockets in a bid to get the party cadre on the streets ahead of the polling.
Urban apathy blamed
The ECI, in a press release, attributed the dampened voter turnout figure to “urban apathy” of important districts and compared it to a similar turnout in the urban Assembly constituency of Shimla that recently recorded the lowest of 62.53% as against the State average of 75.6%.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajeev Kumar said, “Gujarat cities have shown a similar urban apathy trend during voting on December 1, thus pulling down the percentage of voting in the first phase. In the second phase, people must come out in large numbers to compensate for the low voting in phase one.”
Gujarat’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) also appealed to the voters to vote in large numbers in the second phase.
As per ECI, Gandhidham in Kutch district, which has industrial establishments and logistics hub with Kandla Port, recorded the lowest polling of just 47.8%, which is more than 6% lower than 2017.
Similarly, the second lowest voting, just around 50%, was in the Karanj constituency of Surat, which is also 5.37% lower than its own low of 55.91% in 2017.
The turnout figures of the 89 seats show that major cities and urban areas of Gujarat have not only recorded a decline in voting percentage as compared to 2017 elections, but have also voted much less than the State average of 63.3%.
The ECI officials are also concerned about the conspicuous gap in voting turnout between rural and urban constituencies.
For example; the gap in voter turnout is as wide as 34.85% if it is compared to the rural constituency of Dediapada in Narmada district, which has recorded 82.71% and the urban Assembly constituency of Gandhidham, which has witnessed 47.86% voter turnout.
However, it may be noted that tribal constituencies traditionally see higher participation with a larger turnout compared to other districts.