Bangalore voters’ apathy puzzles candidates, analysts

April 27th, 2009 - 11:02 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, April 27 (IANS) Candidates and political analysts in Bangalore are struggling to find a convincing answer to the apathy of voters in India’s tech hub, where only a little over 45 percent of the six million electorate in three Lok Sabha constituencies cast their ballot April 23.

The 2.03 million voters in Bangalore South, touted as a prestigious constituency with the electorate a mix of the educated and rich as well as low-income groups, were the worst - as just 44.73 percent of them turned up at the polling booths.

Bangalore Central with 1.9 million voters was slightly better with a voting percentage of 45.25, while Bangalore North topped the list with 46.78 percent of its 2.14 million electorate casting their vote.

Even Bangalore slum dwellers, treated by political parties as sure voters as they are lured with money and other goodies, stayed away in large numbers.

“Slum-dwellers always vote in huge numbers. Around 70 percent of the voting population of Bangalore slums voted in the assembly elections in May 2008. But surprisingly they did not show much eagerness to vote on Thursday,” said Arul Selva, founder editor of Slum Jagatthu (Slum World), a periodical focusing on issues related to the urban poor.

The Lok Sabha poll only saw a turnout of 50 percent of the voters from the slums, he added.

For Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate and former central minister H.N. Ananth Kumar, seeking re-election for the fifth time in a row from the Bangalore South, and his opponents - state Youth Congress president Krishna Byre Gowda, no-frills aviation pioneer Capt. G.R. Gopinath and educationist K.E. Radhakrishna of Janata Dal-Secular - their high-tech efforts to woo voters through websites and SMSes fell flat, leaving them shocked.

Ananth Kumar wanted more time for campaigning to reach the large number of voters in the constituency and also suggested doing away with the ban on banners and restriction on the number of vehicles a candidate can deploy for electioneering.

“It is sad that people did not come out in large numbers to vote,” lamented Gopinath, but added that the low turnout was in no way a failure of campaigns to motivate the electorate to vote.

Radhakrishnan termed the figures “clearly disappointing.”

However, Byre Gowda and his fellow Congress candidate H. T. Sangliana, a former Bangalore city police commissioner contesting from Bangalore Central, claimed that among the reasons for the low voter turnout was thousands of names had been deleted in their constituency. They blamed the BJP, which is ruling the state for the first time, for the deletion.

“Because of the mischief done by enemy camp (BJP), names of thousands of voters from minority community were missing from the voters’ list this time. According to our estimate, around 14 percent of the voters found their names missing from the list they went to vote Thursday. If the 14 percent had voted, the figures would have been much better,” Sangliana told IANS.

“Many voters also failed to vote due to confusion created by misspelling of their names,” he added.

Byre Gowda claimed that names of about 30,000 voters were found missing in the key segments of his constituency, and said he had asked the Election Commission to resurvey these areas and carry out repolling there.

However, analysts blamed the politicians as well as the middle class.

“Politicians have failed the people and need to inspire voters by good work and governance to achieve large-scale participation of people during elections,” political analyst Sandeep Shastri told IANS.

“The low voting percentage is a reflection of anger and disappointment among the voters against politicians who hardly work for the growth and development of the country,” said Trilochan Sastry, the convenor of National Election Watch (NEW).

According to Sandeep Shastri, the educated middle class people were not discharging their duties by failing to vote and only knew how to “blame when something goes wrong”.

However, Trilochan Sastry cautioned against blaming voters only.

“It’s easy to blame voters, but voters are disillusioned. Politicians hardly talked about issues during elections, all they did is mud-singling. Both voters and politicians need to introspect,” he said.

While Sandeep called for campaigns to motivate voters like ‘Jaago Re’ to be of longer duration to create an impact, Trilochan said the campaigns should not only be in English and targeted at the urban educated people but also focus on rural voters.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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