Lower than expected voting percentage in the civic elections in Bhopal has sent alarm bells ringing across both major political parties – BJP and Congress. On Saturday, voter apathy was evident with polling stations wearing a deserted look at most times in the day. Bhopal recorded close to 57 % polling, up about 5% compared to last civic elections in 2009.
The BJP on Saturday claimed that a high voter turnout would be in its favour. "We expect the voter turnout to be about 60% which would benefit the party as we see it as a positive vote for the work done by the union and state BJP government," said BJP state president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan.
He enumerated factors that he thinks would contribute to low polling. "Polling being held on a weekend and with the wedding season on, a number of people would be out of the city," he said. Sources in the BJP also said that there is voter apathy setting in with people, since the civic election is the third election to be held in last 14 months.
In conventional political wisdom, an upswing in polling percentage compared to the previous elections was meant to signify a vote against the incumbent. This was however proved wrong in the assembly elections of 2013 when the polling percentage increased by about 10 percentage points but only ended up adding more votes for the ruling party.
Contrary to claims that they were poised to win the municipal polls, the low turnout became a cause of concern for the BJP. Tapan Bhaumik, office-in-charge for the polls informed state organizational general secretary Arvind Menon about the low turnout after which Menon spoke to party candidates in all wards and asked them to mobilize workers to get voters to the booth.
Menon also spoke to Alok Sharma, the BJP mayoral candidate and asked him to try and mobilize more voters. State Congress vice president Manak Agarwal was at the PCC all day monitoring the polls on a television set.
Agarwal met a number of journalists and party workers in the day. "We are getting positive reports about the Congress candidate’s chances," he said when being told that the polling percentage would at best be moderate.