At 68.62%, Karnataka recorded its highest ever polling in a parliamentary election in the state’s history, that was fuelled by fierce contests in constituencies like Mandya, Uttara Kannada, Shivamogga (Shimoga) and Tumakuru (Tumkur) among other places, challenging theories that 2019 was a ‘waveless election’ in the state.
Even the 2014 Lok Sabha polls that witnessed a massive ‘Modi wave’ across the country, and saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi storm to power at the centre, recorded only 67.60% voter turnout, data shows.
Not to say there was no ‘wave’ in the previous elections as the state saw its voter turnout increase from 58.82% in 2009 to 67.60% in 2014, registering an increase of 8.38%, even though BJP saw its numbers shrink from 19 to 17 parliamentary seats in the same period.
The 2019 election, that was fought with no apparent and overarching theme, is the biggest in terms of voter participation in Karnataka.
“Most of the explanation is not in the big picture but in smaller pictures," said Sandeep Shastri, a political and electoral analyst who is the pro vice-chancellor of JAIN, a deemed university. He adds that most of the swing came in from constituencies where there were high voltage battles like in Mandya that recorded an increase of 8.76% over 2014. The voter turnout in Mandya was also the highest in the sugarcane growing district’s history.
The high turnout in Mandya more than made up for the poor participation in the four seats of Bengaluru, including rural, that saw a decline in polling numbers. Bengaluru South recorded the lowest voter turnout with 53.47%.
Until the latest figures of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls were released on Wednesday, Karnataka had registered record polling only in 1999, incidentally when another BJP leader, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, came into power, even though Congress bagged 18 out of the 28 seats.
G.Parameshwara, former Congress state president and deputy chief minister of Karnataka, said that there was an anti-incumbency factor at play against multiple term BJP parliamentarians who were seeking votes in the name of Modi and not on their respective performance and contribution to the constituency." More than the increase in percentage, its how the campaign was carried out," he says.
The BJP is confident that the higher turnout was due to voter awareness and the frenzy around Modi, who is seeking another term in office around issues like national security, especially after the cross-border airstrikes against Pakistan.
“It was as if voters did not want to Modi to miss out on being PM again," said Jagadish Shettar, former Karnataka chief minister and senior BJP leader. The BJP is confident of winning over 20 seats, that will not only add to the national tally of the party but also add to the problems of the H.D.Kumaraswamy-led coalition government that has been battling to stay afloat since the two parties joined hands in May last year.
“A higher number for the BJP will only increase the mistrust between them," he adds.
The JD(S) believes that the higher turnout is not indicative of any wave for Modi, but the initiative of the voter to come out and exercise their respective duty.
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