Empty streets, empty polling booths, missing names, unprecedented security arrangements, friendly gun toting jawans of the CISF/BSF manning the booths unmindful of the soaring mercury and media persons unable to get some colour in their regular election copy. That summed up the polling day scene in the state capital on the hot and humid Saturday afternoon.
"This is easily the most bland election I have covered. Everything is dry and this includes the weather, our mood, people's reactions and our footage," a TV journalist commented after having a tour of the city.
Dry, it was indeed. In old city, the reaction of Muslim voters proved to be an enigma for most. The long, serpentine queues of burqa clad Muslim women turning out in large numbers were missing this time making many wonder, "Where have the traditional voters disappeared this time?"
In Hussainabad area, one did get to see some enthusiastic voters casting their vote at the Unity College polling booth. But, such scenes were rare.
Sample this: Till 9 am, two hours after polling began, not one voter had turned up at the Gulistan Abu Talib polling booth! At a polling booth near Mansoor Nagar crossing the BSF jawans easily outnumbered the voters.
"The problem is that this time candidates who earlier used to get the people out of their homes to vote for them on the polling day were stopped from bringing the voters on vehicles right up to the polling booths because of the EC's directives," felt Isharat Jahan, a political worker in Ashrafabad.
But could that be the only reason? As DK Srivastava, an official with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) who had been made sector magistrate for polling outside Lucknow, felt, "This time there has been no bogus voting. This time the votes that have been cast are genuine. Kudos to the EC."
Another important factor contributing to the dull response of the people was deteriorating credibility of the candidates fielded by various political parties.
At St Marks Polling booth at Clay Square, around 3 pm, there were hardly a couple of voters. Same was the scene at Kendriya Vidyalaya polling booth at Aliganj and Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth booth at Gomtinagar.
At Boys Anglo Polling booth at Sunderbagh from where the BJP had been getting a very good response earlier, hardly five people were seen outside one polling booth. At other booths, the situation was worse.
But, despite the low turnout, one generally heard people praising the EC's arrangements. "It's good. The security arrangements are excellent. This time one would get to see where one actually stands," said Vijay Singh, a PhD scholar from Lucknow University (LU) who cast his vote at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Aliganj. And Amitava Mukherjee, zonal business development manager, Surgiwear, described the arrangements as “well planned” after casting his vote. But as Tony Mullick, an NRI, in Lucknow to watch the elections, said, "What's good for democracy is often not so good for the politicians."