Friday, November 15, 2019

Posted at: May 21, 2019, 6:53 AM; last updated: May 21, 2019, 4:58 PM (IST)LOWEST TURNOUT IN PUNJAB

Unenthused, disappointed, Amritsar voter stayed away

GS Paul

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 20

A significant section of population in the Amritsar parliamentary constituency stayed away from voting this time, marking the lowest turnout in Punjab at 57.08 per cent.  Only 8,56,665 out of 15,00,940 voters showed up at polling booths.

Blame it on disappointment over ill-conceived policies of successive governments, anti-incumbency, anger over sacrilege incidents or low-key campaigning, lack of enthusiasm was evident among Amritsar voters. Voters in the urban belt seemed least enthused.

While Amritsar North recorded 57.91 per cent polling, Amritsar West saw a poor 49.24 per cent turnout, closely followed by Amritsar South at 49.59. The rural belt fared better, with Ajnala witnessing 65.96 per cent and Attari 55.16 per cent polling.

Zorawar Singh from Jagoana locality (Amritsar West) said they had put up banners asking parties to refrain from soliciting votes. “In the past 25 years, no party has spent a penny on repairing roads that connect at least 350 houses. There are 750 votes in our area and barring a few, everyone boycotted the election. Ironically, no candidate came to seek votes.”

The turnout this time was much lower than the last two parliamentary elections, including the 2017 bypoll that was necessitated by Capt Amarinder Singh’s resignation. In 2017, the constituency saw over 70 per cent polling, while in 2014, when Capt Amarinder contested against BJP’s Arun Jaitley, the figure was 68.18 per cent.

Pyare Lal Seth, a pioneer in shawl manufacturing, says while traders are upset at GST and demonetisation imposed by BJP-led Centre, the Congress, too, has not offered respite to traders.  “The common man is burdened by inflation. There are no people-friendly fiscal policies on offer. Sikhs, who are in a majority here, are hurt due to sacrilege incidents and the ruling Congress’ inaction. AAP has little say, so people didn’t have much choice,” he says, while asserting he voted since it was his duty.

Baksh Ram Arora, BJP’s polling office incharge for all three seats (Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur), says: “Apart from the scorching heat, anti-incumbency against the state government deterred voters from going to polling booths. Also, unlike the 2014 polls, campaigning remained a low-key affair.”

Sitting MP and Congress candidate Gurjit Singh Aujla claims there is resentment against the NDA-led Centre too. “Bad implementation of GST and note ban has broken the back of traders and common man.” Admitting that the regular ‘pomp and show’ was missing this time, he says: “Capt was scheduled to campaign but it was cancelled at the last minute. Navjot Sidhu too turned down the request.”


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