PUNE: Unusual enthusiasm was witnessed in the Satara Lok Sabha byelection on Monday as more than 65% voters were set to exercise their franchise by the end of the day as against 61% casting votes for the Lok Sabha elections in April.
The figures released by district returning officers showed 61.85% voter turnout till 5 pm, and the same was expected to cross the 65% mark in the last one hour as long queues were seen at most polling stations.
Although the higher voter turnout took political workers by surprise as bypolls normally record lower participation, they said that simultaneous Assembly and LS elections helped boost the numbers. Citizens in the six Assembly segments of Satara Lok Sabha constituency were given two slips each to caste their votes for the Assembly election as well as the Satara LS byelection, said election commission officials.
The Satara byelection aroused curiosity in political circles in Maharashtra following the resignation of Udayanraje Bhosale , the 13th descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji . He quit the NCP, resigned from the membership of Lok Sabha and joined BJP within three months of the general election.
Udayanraje had won the Satara Lok Sabha seat twice — 2014 and 2019 — despite the Modi wave. Political observers believe that the NCP could then retain the Satara seat because of the personal popularity of Udayanraje and respect for the royal family. The NCP fielded Sharad Pawar’s trusted confidant Shriniwas Patil , who had represented the erstwhile Karad Lok Sabha constituency twice. Pawar’s Friday Satara rally, where he addressed the crowd in heavy rain, was expected to generate sympathy for the party.
Udayanraje, accompanied by his family, cast his vote early in the morning and visited various parts of the constituency. Political workers and state election commission machinery was anxious about the voter turnout as Satara district experienced heavy rain for the last three days. The poll panel faced several hardships to take necessary material and staff to the polling stations, majority of which were situated in hilly areas.
Officials had appealed to voters to exercise their franchise in the first session of the day as rain has been lashing the district in the second half of the day over the last few days. Satara district experienced heavy rain till Monday morning, but sunlight throughout the day brought a huge relief to voters as well as poll officials. The polling was low in the first four hours of the day, but it picked up after 11am as voters came out of their houses because of the break in the rain and efforts taken by political workers.
According to official information provided by election commission, participation of male voters was slightly higher than female.