Combination of factors contributed to poll day indifference in Bengaluru

Among reasons cited for the poor voter turnout are absence of a 'wave', anti-incumbency, and presence of floating population

April 20, 2019 09:51 am | Updated 10:48 am IST - Bengaluru

The scene at a polling booth at Chikkabanavara during the Lok Sabha elections in Bengaluru on Thursday.

The scene at a polling booth at Chikkabanavara during the Lok Sabha elections in Bengaluru on Thursday.

Election analysts attribute the continuous decline in voter turnout in Bengaluru to various factors, including absence of a ‘wave’ in favour of any particular party, anti-incumbency, the presence of a floating population apart from errors in the voters’ list. The three Lok Sabha constituencies in the city have clocked the lowest turnout among the seats in the State where elections were held on April 18, with Bengaluru South recording the lowest at 53.48%.

Political analyst Sandeep Shastri said there is a need to go beyond the standard explanation of ‘holiday season’ and urban voter apathy. “Is there a deeper malaise? We have not given enough attention to the errors of omissions and commissions in the voters’ list. Despite the Election Commission repeatedly reminding people to check for their names in the list, the voter realises only on the day of polling that his or her name is missing. We need to look at these issues more seriously,” he said.

Also, in urban areas, the voters’ list is inflated because of a floating population, duplication of names because parties try to register more voters. “These voters may also be voters in their home town, in constituencies other than Bengaluru. So, they may have gone to their home towns and voted there,” he said. Not ruling out political equations affecting voter behaviour, Mr. Shastri pointed out that dissidence in parties may also have affected the turnout. “Dissidence over the choice of Congress candidate in Bengaluru Central and the BJP candidate in Bengaluru South may also have resulted in many voters staying away. That apart, we also need to ponder if the candidates fielded by parties inspired voters,” he said.

Trend world over

Trilochan Sastry, professor at IIM Bangalore and founder of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), said low voter turnout in urban areas is a trend the world over. “While vacation season could be one reason, usually urban voters do not see any connection between their life and voting. Besides, half of the urban population is floating,” he said.

Sanjiv Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) for Karnataka, said the Commission is indeed concerned about the low voter turnout.

“We had asked voters to check for their names in the list well in advance. We had also requested political parties to appoint booth-level agents for each polling station to work with booth level officers for maximum voter registration. Unfortunately, the response was poor. There is a need to improve the voter registration process in Bengaluru,” he said.

Insisting that there was no summary deletion of names from the list without due enquiry, the CEO said complaints of missing names would be probed thoroughly.

According to a political observer, who did not wish to be named, factors such as creation of a ‘wave’ by parties and anti-incumbency also contribute significantly to voter turnout.

“The absence of a ‘wave’ like what was shown to exist in 2014 has played a role. That is why despite multiple campaigns and initiatives to improve voter participation, Bengaluru did not buck the trend of low turnout this time too. Only those who have been voting regularly have voted,” he said.

This is borne out by the statistics. The lowest turnout in 2014 was 55.64% (Bengaluru Central).

This time, the figure is 53.48% (Bengaluru South), which is a gap of 2.16 percentage points.

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