Record low turnout for Thane by-election (Lead)

May 23rd, 2008 - 1:43 am ICT by admin  

Mumbai, May 22 (IANS) A record low voter turnout was witnessed in the Thane Lok Sabha by-election Thursday frustrating daylong efforts of workers of the Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to woo voters out of their homes. An Election Commission officer told IANS in the evening that only 19.32 percent voting was recorded till 4.00 p.m. in the by-election to the country’s largest constituency.

The by-poll was necessitated by the death of Shiv Sena MP Prakash Paranjpe three months ago.

“Of the 3,622,826 voters in the constituency, only 699,779 voters had exercised their franchise till 4.00 p.m.,” Maharashtra’s deputy chief electoral officer A.N. Valvi told IANS.

“The percentage could have gone up at the most by two more points by the closing time though we haven’t officially received the last figures yet,” another officer said.

Small queues seen at most of the 3,163 polling centres kept the two main contenders, Anand Paranjpe of Shiv Sena and Sanjeev Naik of NCP and their supporters worried throughout the day.

But the NCP candidate and his father, Labour Minister Ganesh Naik, saw some hope in the relatively high turnout of over 30 percent in the assembly segment of Murbad, their stronghold. The poll percentage at Thane, the stronghold of Shiv Sena and its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was 24 percent by 4.00 p.m.

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 warring parties at Vashi over the suspicion of bogus voting. Police soon calmed them with the help of their seniors.

Thane’s Shiv Sena legislator Eknath Shinde complained of police favouring the NCP candidate in the name of handling the voter queues. But barring a few such skirmishes and incidents of tension, the voting remained peaceful and ended on as dull a note as it began.

Many voters, working in offices outside Thane, were unable to make it to the booths before going to work and quite a few families were 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.

NCP, representing four of the six assembly constituencies and assured of support by the sizable Agri Sena and Lal Nishan workers’ union, hopes to make maximum gains from its strongholds of Belapur, Murbad and Ambernath.

Shiv Sena-BJP, claiming the support of 27 community organisations, is banking on its bastions of Thane and Kalyan. Ambernath, represented by Shiv Sena supporter independent MLA Pappu Kalani is unpredictable.

The votes will be counted May 25.

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