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New Delhi: Voter turnout notched up to new highs in many of the 14 states and Union territories that went to polls in the third phase of the ongoing general election.

In the normal course, such a high turnout reflects anti-incumbency and hence may be to the advantage of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, which has been in office for the last 10 years, has been hit by a raft of corruption scandals, its inability to control inflation, and a sharp slowdown in the economy.

The Congress currently holds 45 of the 91 seats that went to polls on Thursday, when around 100 million Indians voted. The BJP holds just 13 seats.

Provisional data released by the Election Commission of India reported the best turnout since 2004 in Delhi, Kerala and Haryana. Voting took place in 91 parliamentary constituencies, which include seven in Delhi, 20 in Kerala, six in Bihar and 10 each in Maharashtra, Haryana, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.

Analysts say that another factor contributing to the high turnout could be young voters—52% of the 814 million electorate is between 18 and 40 years old. While data is not available for all states, the chief electoral officer for Chandigarh disclosed that the turnout of youth was 60%, higher than the total turnout of 57.63%.

The increase in turnout is in keeping with the trend that has been seen in state elections over the past two years, said Sanjay Kumar, political analyst and faculty at the New Delhi-based Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). “I am not surprised that the turnout has increased by 7-8%. We can say that turnout in Indian elections are reasonably good now."

India’s total voter turnout remained under 60% for the past two general elections—58.19% in 2009 and 58.07% in 2004.

The turnout in the first three phases suggests that the country is poised to see a higher turnout in this general election.

According to N. Bhaskara Rao, a New Delhi-based political analyst, cleaner electoral rolls and an increase in the number of young voters have contributed to this. “Overall, the participation of voters in India has increased and it is improving. I would say as a nation we have made a collective effort to go out and vote," he said.

Rao added that the high voter turnout is likely to be beneficial for the BJP. The appeal of the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, he added, cuts across all economic and social classes.

Delhi registered a turnout of more than 64%, surpassing the 51.85% seen in 2009 and 47.09% in the 2004 general elections. The state, where price rise, inflation and the safety of women are key electoral issues, saw a record turnout of over 66% in the December assembly elections.

“The entry of a new political party, the Aam Aadmi Party, which has a sizable support among young voters, is one of the biggest reasons for the increase," CSDS’s Kumar added.

Haryana saw a turnout of 70.7%, compared to 67.49% in 2009 and 65.72% in 2004. The 10 constituencies in Maharashtra that went to polls on Thursday, including Nagpur, Yavatmal-Washim and Amravati, registered a turnout of 54.13%.

Both Haryana and Maharashtra are ruled by the Congress.

Interestingly, 10 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh’s western region, including Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Aligarh and Ghaziabad, which went to poll on Thursday, saw a turnout of 65%. Muzaffarnagar witnessed communal riots last year, leading to the displacement of 51,000 people, mostly Muslims.

A high turnout dilutes votes of special interest groups, especially those defined along either caste or religion. In the last general election in 2009, voter turnout in the entire state of Uttar Pradesh was 47.78%.

Kumar cautioned that a high turnout has no relation to the outcome of an election. “There is no direct relationship to a high turnout which is not necessarily a vote against the government," he said.

Among the states, Kerala was the frontrunner, with 73.6% of the voters exercising their franchise. The state has a history of high turnouts—it saw a turnout of 73.36% in the 2009 general elections and 71.45% in 2004.

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