GURUGRAM: Haryana’s voter turnout for the assembly elections saw a sharp drop this year. Gurugram led the fall among districts and Badshapur among seats.
Gurugram (52.5%) was at the bottom of the pack among the state’s 22 districts, a steep 17 percentage point decline from 69% in the 2014 assembly elections. The performance is not surprising given the turnout patterns in the district across elections — in 2014, Gurugram finished second from the bottom, better only than Faridabad — but worrying nevertheless because the population has increased in the last five years.
Three of the four assembly seats in Gurugram district — Badshapur, Pataudi and Gurgaon — were among the bottom 10 constituencies in turnout numbers. The lowest turnout figures in the state came from the Badshapur seat, which is the biggest in Haryana in terms of the size of the electorate (3.8 lakh). The constituency, which stretches across the expressway to the new sectors from Sohna Road, recorded a turnout of just 45%, a precipitous decline of 23 percentage points from 68% in the 2014 assembly polls. Figures released at 11pm showed Panipat City had the same turnout as that in Badshapur.
The Pataudi seat — a reserved one — fared only slightly better. Just 50% of the electorate turned out to vote. Gurugram, a constituency made up of predominantly urban voters, started on a worrying note in the morning. Till the first half of polling day, the Gurgaon seat had struggled to even touch the 20% turnout mark. While it did pick up towards the latter part of the day, the turnout climbed to just 51% till 7pm. Although the Gurgaon seat has never fared well in voter participation, this year’s performance was the worst in the past decade.
In the 2014 assembly polls, the voter turnout in Gurugram was much lower than the state average of 75%. That year, Sirsa had witnessed the highest turnout at 85%, followed by Fatehabad and Kaithal at 83% each. This year, Sirsa clocked a 69.6% turnout, lower than Fatehabad (74.5%) and Kaithal (75.4%). Voter participation in Fatehabad was the highest in the state this time.
A long weekend, lack of “strong” candidates, and discontent over long-pending demands were cited as some of the reasons that could have affected the voter turnout in Gurugram district this year. Badshapur, the constituency of BJP leader and state minister Rao Narbir Singh who did not receive a ticket this time, has been witnessing rumblings other than political. Protests against the Kherki Daula toll plaza broke out just before the elections, followed by a vote boycott call to express anger at the government’s inability to shift the toll out.
Officials managing poll booths also expressed concern with the low number of people turning up. “We had all arrangements in place — like wheelchairs and first-aid — but they were hardly used. In fact, all the booths in urban areas are faring poorly. My colleagues in booths in rural and slum areas have claimed their turnout is a little better,” said a Red Cross Society volunteer at Delhi Public School in Sector 47 in the afternoon.
Political observers blamed a lacklustre campaign for this apathy among voters. “This is primarily due to public apathy. Civic demands like proper electricity and removal of the Kherki Daula toll remained unaddressed. Moreover, no party had anything concrete to give. As a result, people may not have connected with the process at all,” noted veteran political analyst Ramji Lal.
Candidates and politicians of almost all parties had barely touched upon local issues in their rallies. Observers argued that since the Gurugram seat comprises mainly a migrant population that casts its votes in respective states, candidates hadn’t focused enough on addressing their grievances. During the course of the election campaign, residents had told TOI a full-fledged campaign on local issues was needed but wasn’t visible. Even where candidates turned up with folded hands, their promises had everything but issues plaguing the city.