The huge turnouts in the recent Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam assembly polls left the players confused about the outcome. While the opposition parties think the trend favours change, the incumbents hope it’s a verdict in their favour.
But both sides agree on one aspect: a new-found drive among voters, seeking better accountability, especially after Anna Hazare’s clamour for probity and better governance.
Skeptics, however, pointed out that in some places, cash and goodies might have played a part in luring the voter to the polling booth.
Tamil Nadu polled 78%, the highest since Independence, and Kerala registered 75.12%, the highest after 80.54 % in 1987. In Assam, 76.03% came out to cast their votes.
In Kerala, the Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) smelt victory as the combine has always won when the turnout has gone above 73%. In 2006, when the CPI(M)-led Left and Democratic Front (LDF) came to power with 99 of the 140 seats, the turnout was 72.28%.
“The people this time came out in large numbers to protest against the mounting graft cases (of the UPA at the Centre,” said LDF convener Vaikkom Viswan.But Tamil Nadu’s story is more telling. In 1967, a 76.57% turnout brought the DMK to power for the first time,
ending Congress rule for years to come.
Prof Ramu Manivannan of Madras University said, “Inducements for voting (read cash), too, may have swelled the numbers.”
In Assam, the turnout figure usually swings between 68% and 70%. Although it was 75% this time, it was roughly 3% lower than in 1985 when the elections capped a six-year-long anti-foreigners stir.
Congress CM Tarun Gogoi read the turnout as a “vote for the kind of governance we provided”.
Political analyst P Rajguru said: “What politicians won’t tell you is the enthusiasm among first-time voters. Their percentage is considerably higher this time.”
(Inputs from Chennai, Thiruvanthapuram, Guwahati and Srinagar)