CHANDIGARH ; The 5% fall in turnout in the Lok Sabha polls in Punjab against the 2014 elections has raised concerns of apathy among voters, with nearly 92 lakh of a total of 2.7 crore electors not turning up to exercise their franchise in the state this time.
Many analysts are of the view that the dip in turnout, from last general election’s 70.89% to the present figure of 65.84%, is significant.
Surprisingly, the Amritsar, Khadoor Sahib, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Anandpur Sahib, Ludhiana and Faridkot constituencies, which were expected to witness a high turnout, polled below the state’s overall average at 57.08%, 64.01%, 63.04%, 62.15%, 63.76%, 62.16%, and 63.22% respectively.
As many as 278 candidates are contesting from 13 seats in the state.
Even as Patiala recorded 68% polling, more than the state average, it was expected to see a heavy turnout it being a high-stake seat with chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s wife, former Union minister Preneet Kaur, contesting from it.
The Bathinda seat, which is also witnessing a battle of prestige with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s wife and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal in the fray, however, is an exception as it recorded the state’s highest polling at 74.10%.
Among assembly seats, lowest polling at Attari
Among the 117 assembly constituencies in Punjab, Attari, represented by SAD’s Faridkot candidate Gulzar Singh Ranike, saw the lowest polling at 49%, followed by Amritsar (west) at 49.24%.
The Budhlada assembly segment (Bathinda parliamentary seat) witnessed the highest polling at 78.8% followed by Jalalabad (77.97%) which is represented by Sukhbir Badal.
“It was a lacklustre campaign that led to a fall in turnout,” said Jagrup Singh Sekhon, the state coordinator of Lokniti, a social science research programme of New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), and head of political science department, Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU).
“I think the Congress failed to mobilise its supporters despite having the majority in civic bodies and panchayats whereas the Akalis worked hard. The contrast in turnout in the Patiala and Bathinda seats are an indicator of this,” he said.
“The state’s ruling party took things for granted and did not work really hard. The BJP’s frontal organisations slugged it out and it will reflect in the May 23 results,” he added.
Political analysts see similar trend in the Khadoor Sahib and Anandpur Sahib seats, considered panthic strongholds.
“We were expecting more turnout in these seats, particularly Khadoor Sahib, where Paramjit Kaur Khalra managed to mobilise the fringe groups that have not shown much interest in the polls in the recent past,” said another political observer.
‘AAP supporters disillusioned’
Pramod Kumar, director, Institute for Development and Communication (IDC), said the parties failed to highlight public issues such as health and education besides remaining silent on the concerns of the farmers and the poor.
He also attributed the fall in turnout to a section of voters, who supported the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the 2014 parliamentary and 2017 assembly elections getting disillusioned with the political scenario and thus choosing not to vote.
Even the efforts put up by Election Commission of India (ECI), which was expecting to surpass the voter turnout of the 2014 polls, failed to show results. “We did our best to motivate the voters to come out and vote. But we can’t force anyone,” chief electoral officer Punjab S Karuna Raju said.