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Turnout Bogey

Now that the votes have been cast in Uttarakhand for the five Lok Sabha constituencies, everybody is interested in interpreting what happened in the light, particularly, of the marginally lower turnout from 61.60 percent in 2014 to 57.85 percent, yesterday. In the ‘Modi wave’ of 2014, the BJP had taken a huge lead of 13 percent over nearest rival Congress. Much depends on how much the BJP retains of this occupied space.
Congress candidate for the Nainital-US Nagar constituency, Harish Rawat believes that the drop in turnout is a pullback of the wave. It is his contention that those who voted for the BJP, earlier, did not turn out this time. This implies a drop in the BJP’s lead by 4 percent. Although not necessarily comparable, there was also a drop of 2 percent turnout to 65.64 percent from 67.62 percent in the earlier assembly election of 2017. However, the BJP retained a 13 percent lead even then. This would indicate that the impact of a drop in turnout can be shared among the parties, without giving any one an advantage.
The lower percentage, this time, probably has to do more with the fact that voting took place on a working day – Thursday – and many of the voters living in other parts of the country, particularly the NCR and nearby areas, could not make it. Had it been a weekend, they would certainly have made the effort. It is significant, also, that the vote percentage in the hills was lower than in the plains, as it is even more difficult to get there. This underlines the need, which has been focused on more than once by various organisations, that, arrangements have to be made for voters who cannot make it home because they live and work, elsewhere. Government employees and those in the Armed Forces have the facility of postal ballots, but others – whose jobs can be just as important in terms of serving the nation – do not. By a rough estimate, as many as 25-30 percent lose their vote because of this! It is obviously a failure of the democratic process, because those in the migrant workforce tend to be better informed and more inclined to vote from a wider, national, perspective.
The claim that people were not inclined to vote and largely disillusioned with the present dispensation was belied by the sight of the elderly, the differently-abled, ill or injured people, etc., making the effort to reach the polling station. Even a woman who had given birth to a child in the morning voted later in the day! There were some who boycotted the poll, but they were basically protesting the neglect by all political parties.
And, anyway, there is the strong likelihood of the Election Commission revising the turnout number upwards in the coming days!