As Lok Sabha elections reach its final stage, if the voter turnout and on-ground pulse is anything to go by, there does not seem to be a massive anti-incumbency being reflected right now. The estimated voter turnout in the sixth and penultimate phase of voting which took place on Sunday, May 12, was 64.59% with West Bengal registering as high as 84.50% participation.
Speaking on the voter turnout and what it could mean, Pradip Bhandari, Jan Ki Baat founder who anchors ‘Lalkar’ on Republic TV, said that vote-share-seat-share theory is a big bogus one propagated by lazy commentators who don’t want to come out of their drawing rooms. He said that while there is no direct correlation between voter turnout and election outcome, at best the voter turnout could reflect the mood of the nation.
“The voting outcome has largely been the same as it had been in 2014, except in Delhi where among other things, the voter turnout in the Muslim-dominated area has been comparatively lesser. This could be because the outcome value of Muslim voter in Delhi has reduced, which has discouraged some of them. This neutralising of the vote has been an unprecedented development,” said Bhandari.
Commenting on the difference between voter motivation in Bengal in 2014 vs 2019, he said, “The 2019 Bengal voter is not the same as 2014 voter. The voter is voting for a decisive reason despite violence in many places. In 2014, Bengal voted to ensure Mamata gets a majority. In 2019, the same cannot be said.”
It was reported that Hindus were being stopped from casting their votes in Medinipur constituency whereas one BJP worker was found dead on the day of the voting and two other BJP workers were shot at. Bhandari said that the last phase of voting in Bengal will be most crucial.
“In Madhya Pradesh, the voter turnout has been quite good, similar on the lines of 2014. It could suggest different things in different places. Like, motivation for a higher voting percentage in Guna is different from the motivation for high voting percentage in Bhopal. Bhopal always has polarised elections. Berasia and Sehore assembly seats will decide the fate of Bhopal seat where Congress has fielded Digvijaya Singh against Sadhvi Pragya of BJP,” Bhandari said. Digvijaya Singh, however, was engrossed in voting in Bhopal, where he has contested against BJP’s Sadhvi Pragya, and could not cast his vote.
Uttar Pradesh, which is pegged as the deciding factor in general elections may not see the Mahagathbandhan sweeping the state. “For gathbandhan to do good, it has to be either extremely low turnout or extremely high turnout. Neutral voter (or floating voter) perspective also needs to be taken into consideration. If the neutral voter chooses to go for welfare and leadership, the caste factor may not play an important role in the outcome. While gathbandhan has made a strong case on paper, how much of it is reflected on the ground, one can only wait and watch,” Bhandari said. Uttar Pradesh also saw a minuscule increase in voter percentage in the 14 constituencies which cast their vote on Sunday.
Another place which will show a decisive result will be Haryana. Trends reflect that there has been a Jat vs anti-Jat fight like in 2014 but it has only polarised now. Rohtak and Sonipat will throw surprises Bhandari said.
The overall voter turnout in the sixth phase of polling was down by 2.96% as compared to 2014.
The seventh and the final phase of polling will take place on Sunday, May 19 which again has 59 seats going to polls including Varanasi from where PM Modi is seeking his second term. In 2014, the BJP had won 33 out of these 59 seats, which brought up the tally to 282 helping BJP come out as the single largest party in over 30 years.
The counting of ballots will take place on Thursday, May 23.
Note: Above percentages are estimates and the actual percentage may slightly vary.