Poor turnout in Thane by-election

May 22nd, 2008 - 3:52 pm ICT by admin  

Mumbai, May 22 (IANS) A low key voter response was witnessed Thursday in the Lok Sabha by-election at Thane in Maharashtra, with workers of the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) trying hard to ensure maximum possible turnout. Moderate size queues of 50 to 60 voters were seen at most of the 3,163 polling centres in the first four hours after balloting began at 8.00 a.m. The turnout was as low as eight to 10 voters at some booths in the country’s largest Lok Sabha constituency, comprising six assembly segments and over 3.5 million voters.

The contest, occasioned by the death of Shiv Sena MP Prakash Paranjpe in February, is mainly between his son Anand (Shiv Sena) and Sanjeev Naik of NCP, both in their early 30s.

An engineering and management graduate, Anand is a greenhorn in politics while Sanjeev, son of Maharashtra Labour Minister Ganesh Naik, has considerable experience as former mayor of Navi Mumbai. The 14 other candidates in the fray are considered inconsequential.

One official said it would be a miracle if 40 percent polling was achieved Thursday.

Many voters, working in offices outside Thane, were unable to make it to the polling stations before going to work and quite a few families are holidaying as schools and colleges are closed for summer.

But widespread disinterest in the by-poll with the general elections only a year away is the real factor explaining the low turnout, a senior citizen said.

No untoward incidents were reported in the first half of the day from any of the 86 polling centres marked out as sensitive barring an altercation between workers of the two main parties at Vashi over the suspicion of bogus voting. Police soon calmed them.

The scales appear evenly poised, making prediction of the outcome difficult.

While the NCP, representing four of the six assembly constituencies and assured of support by the sizable Agri community and Lal Nishan workers’ union, hopes to make maximum gains from its strongholds of Belapur, Murbad and Ambernath, the Shiv Sena and its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), claiming the support of 27 community groups, is banking on its bastions Thane, Kalyan and Dombivali.

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