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Posted at: May 21, 2019, 7:38 AM; last updated: May 21, 2019, 8:59 AM (IST)

Lack of any palpable wave to blame for dip in turnout

Lack of any palpable wave to blame for dip in turnout
People stand in a queue to cast their ballot at a polling booth in Chandigarh on Sunday. RAVI KUMAR

Sushil Manav

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 20

Lack of any palpable wave and absence of any major anti-incumbency factor against the present government at the Centre are being considered the main reasons for the dip in voter turnout this time in comparison to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The presence of actor Gul Panag in the election scene in 2014 as the candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which was on the surge at that time, is also being considered the reason for the heaviest turnout since 1967 in last Lok Sabha poll.

In yesterday’s polling for the Chandigarh parliamentary constituency, a turnout of 70.62 per cent was recorded, which even though being the second highest since 1967, is less than 2014 by almost 3 per cent. In 2014, it was 73.71 per cent.

The highest-ever turnout of women was also witnessed in 2014 – it was 74.01 per cent, which was 0.6 per cent higher than men.

What is more notable about the turnout this time is the fact that while villages coming under the Union Territory recorded a heavy turnout of more than 85 per cent in some cases, the polling was as low as 47 per cent in some posh sectors of the city.

Asked why the voter turnout dipped this time, Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal said he had not given a thought to the issue so far.

“Jo hai so hai (It is what it is),” he said.

BJP candidate Kirron Kher did not agree that the main contestants in 2014 were the same as 2019.

“In 2014, we had Gul Panag too,” she said, but at the same time, the actor-politician said a difference of 3 per cent in the turnout did not matter much.

“Kher is not wrong, because the presence of Gul Panag was one of the biggest reasons behind the highest-ever voter turnout in 2014,” said a political observer.

The advent of AAP in Chandigarh in 2014, which was mentored by leaders who were earlier part of the Anna Hazare movement against corruption, united the floating votes in Chandigarh.

“Even though the party was young, a large number of people volunteered to campaign for AAP in the city as they were emotionally attached to it. Bollywood actor Gulkirat Kaur Panag witnessed massive support from different sections of society. A party, which started from scratch, hardly a few months before the elections, managed to put up a brilliant show,” said political observers.

Gul Panag had polled 1.08 lakh votes against 1.91 lakh by Kher and 1.21 lakh by Bansal.

Sources, however, said Gul Panag’s absence from the field could be one reason, but there were some other reasons too for the relatively lower turnout this time.

“In 2014, there was general anger against the Congress. It was for the first time that two film stars were contesting the poll and there was an apparent Modi wave at that time. This time, there is no big anti-incumbency against the Modi government as also there is no positive sentiment towards the Congress, which has been out of power for five years,” said the political observers.

Ironically, another actor, Chandigarh’s own Ayushmaan Khurrana was the Election Commission’s brand ambassador for SVEEP programme, but he, too, did not cast his vote despite being a city voter.

“When people have to vote more or less for status quo, a dip in the turnout is not unusual,” sources said.

AAP candidate Harmohan Dhawan said the failure of both Pawan Kumar Bansal and Kirron Kher to fulfil promises they made in 2009 and 2014, respectively, had disenchanted the voters this time, resulting in a dip in the voter turnout.

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