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Turnout Conundrum

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If the around 60% turnout figures are anywhere accurate, they pose a number of questions regarding the ongoing polls in Gujarat. These would be 7% less than those for the 2017 assembly polls. Going by the reportage by the media about the campaign that it is a hotly contested battle, then why the relatively low turnout?

The traditional wisdom of poll analysts is that low turnouts mean less anti-incumbency and lack of inclination among sections of society to vote for any side. This also implies that it gives an advantage to more motivated sections and communities whose voting percentage is higher. Where such communities are more evenly spread, it can have a wider impact on results. In a close fight, it can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Or, maybe the Gujaratis are so sure of the outcome that they are not bothering to vote.

In the present day, however, there are also other implications. In many states, there are a significant percentage of registered voters that live away from home. These ‘migrants’ do not always return home to vote for a number of reasons. While for the Hindi heartland, it may mean they are employed in the more prosperous states, in the case of Gujarat it is very likely many voters are living abroad.

It is also a fact that the better off sections do not vote in India as enthusiastically as the poor. As the average Gujarati has a higher income than those in other parts of the country, the declining trend may be a natural consequence. In a scenario where AAP targets the marginalised sections, could it make a greater impact than suggested, so far? And since it is contesting for more or less the same votebank as the Congress, will the latter take a larger hit than anticipated?

Whatever the results, the situation requires measures to ensure that as many voters exercise their franchise as possible. With the youth component of the population getting larger, the required sense of involvement and responsibility is naturally less. With their inclination towards online interface, necessary steps should be taken to make voting possible over the internet. If it requires only a couple of minutes of the day to exercise one’s franchise from just about anywhere, the voting percentage will naturally go up and the results will be less skewed. Nobody would then be able to blame ‘others’ for choices they themselves have made.