Delhi/Chennai/Mumbai: Voter turnout in almost all the Lok Sabha constituencies that went to polls on Thursday in the sixth phase of the 16th general election was higher than in 2009, maintaining the trend seen in the previous five rounds.
A total of 117 seats spread across 11 states and the Union territory of Puducherry were decided in the second largest phase of the nine-stage election, which concludes on 12 May.
“Polling in a total of 349 Lok Sabha constituencies has been completed by the end of the sixth phase of general election with 66% votes. The total registered voter turnout for the same seats during 2009 Lok Sabha election was 57.53%, an increase of 7.5 percentage points,” said Akshay Rout, director general of the Election Commission.
Voting took place on Thursday in Tamil Nadu (39 seats), Maharashtra (19), Uttar Pradesh (12), Madhya Pradesh (10), Bihar (7), Chhattisgarh (7), Assam (6), West Bengal (6), Rajasthan (5), Jharkhand (4) and Jammu and Kashmir (1). Puducherry has one seat.
In Assam’s six constituencies, the turnout on Thursday was 77.05%, up from 71.6% in the last Lok Sabha polls. In Tamil Nadu, the turnout was 73%, the same as in 2009. All the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies in the southern state voted in a single phase.
The six constituencies of West Bengal that voted recorded an impressive turnout of 82%, slightly lower than the 83.95% that cast their votes in 2009. In Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency, the turnout was just 28%, but still higher than the 26.94% in the last election.
Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, witnessed an average turnout of 50.26% that still beat the turnout in 2009.
The highest polling in Mumbai was in the south-central constituency where 55% of the electorate turned out. Mumbai south followed with 54%, while Mumbai north and north-central polled 51% of votes. The turnout was 52% in north-east Mumbai and 50% in north-west. The turnout in Maharashtra was 55.33% against 44.86% in 2009.
The South Mumbai constituency, where more billionaires live per sq. km than anywhere in India, acquired a notoriety for low voter turnouts in the past. The constituency sprang a surprise with a jump of 15 percentage points in polling, compared with 2009.
Deepak Parekh, chairman of mortgage lender Housing Development Finance Corp. Ltd, had to return without exercising his franchise in south Mumbai because his name didn’t figure in the voters’ list.
“I have been voting at the polling station located in Activity School on Peddar Road as long as I can recall and never has such an incident happened,” Parekh said. “I had carried all my identity papers, but still I was not able to vote.”
The Union minister of state for telecommunication and information technology Milind Deora is seeking re-election for the third time from the constituency, where he is being opposed by the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) candidate and former banker Meera Sanyal.
A total of 180.5 million people were eligible to vote in Thursday’s elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) were in a straight contest in nearly 70 seats in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Assam.
The turnout was 60% in Bihar, 63.4% in Jharkhand, 60% in Uttar Pradesh, 64% in Madhya Pradesh, 59% in Rajasthan, 62.5% in Chhattisgarh, and 82% in Puducherry.
Political analysts said the higher voter turnout was not only a possible indication of an anti-incumbency vote, but also a signal that people are voting for change.
“Election in nearly two-third Lok Sabha seats have been completed. The high turnout is partly because of anti-incumbency. People are voting in high numbers across the states because they are looking for positive change and there is a sense of optimism among the voters,” said Kanpur-based political analyst A.K. Verma.
Thursday’s polling was crucial for the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Opinion pollsters give a clear edge to the BJP over rival Congress.
The party has high stakes in 70 seats in eight states—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Assam—that went to the polls on Thursday.
PTI contributed to this report.