BHUBANESWAR: The State Capital where urban polls were held on Thursday after a gap of nine years saw only about 50 per cent (pc) voter turnout on the day. Even though the polling percentage this time remained seven pc more compared to 43 pc recorded in the previous elections in 2013, the figure was not encouraging.
The city stood second among the three municipal corporations in terms of voting, while its total voter turnout was 15 pc less than the average polling recorded in 109 ULBs of the State on the day.
There was a slow start to polling in the morning which remained around 10 pc in the first one hour of voting between 8 am and 9 am. The trend continued till noon where the turnout remained around 21 pc. By 3 pm, it improved gradually to around 45 pc but voting could not pick up pace after that and logged a rise of only 5 pc by the end of the polling at 5 pm.
Slum dwellers and those from the lower economic sections were seen voting in large numbers, while the upper and middle class sections and educated mass stayed away. Opposition parties, especially leaders from the saffron party alleged that inadequate arrangements at polling stations including EVM glitches discouraged many voters from exercising franchise.
Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mahapatra told mediapersons that voter turnout in urban areas remains comparatively low as many people get transferred to other places or leave the cities after their retirement. Rural areas do not have these issues, he said.
Retired professor of Political Science at Utkal University Brahmananda Satapathy, however, blamed ‘intellectual apathy’ as one of the biggest factors for poor turnout. Prof Satapathy said the mindset of the intellectual masses, constituting a sizable population of the city, that the day of voting is a holiday for them is one of the biggest reasons why polling always remains less in big cities.
He said though there is no political alienation among the intellectuals, the mindset is that even if there is less participation from their side in the electoral process, the institutional service they get will remain the same. He, however, pinned hope that like this election the voter turnout will gradually increase in the coming years with participation of young and educated masses in the electoral process.
Meanwhile, BJP Mayor candidate for BMC Suniti Mund alleged polling discrepancies. While she accused BJD workers of prompting people to cast votes in favour of ruling party candidates, Mund also alleged that polling officials were working for BJD during voting. She shared a number of live videos of the polling discrepancies on her social media accounts.
She also shared videos of booths in Wards 8 and 27 where polling officials were sitting next to the EVMs. She alleged that the rule of keeping EVMs away from polling officials during voting in booths was not followed. BJD leaders, however, refuted the allegations and said that they had no role in the election process which was carried out by the State Election Commission in a transparent manner.