A complete apathy on the part of voters in Patna, the state capital of Bihar where polling for the third phase of the crucial assembly elections is underway on Wednesday, has stunned poll watchers.
With no queues in any polling booth, Patna recorded the lowest turnout of 16.35% by 12pm - an unprecedented trend in the electoral history.
In the upscale Pataliputra Colony, hardly 10% of the voters had cast their ballot meaning only 56 of the over 900 people listed at the booth had turned up.
In another posh area of SK Puri in the heart of Patna, a Hindustan Times correspondent saw ‘no one’ in the polling booth. “I could vote in two minutes. There was no one around,” he said.
It was a similar scene in Phulwati and Danapur constituencies on the periphery of Patna.
A senior doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, told HT that over 80% of his colleagues, especially those who run private clinics, had left the city fearing extortion in the name of election funds. And so had businessmen.
With the Durga Puja intervening between the first and second phases, state government employees and bankers -traditionally more inclined to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party, have also left town for a vacation.
The BJP had swept all seats in the last assembly polls and the lowest voter turnout would be a cause for concern.
Except for Vaishali, which led the percentages, chief minister Nitish Kumar’s turf Nalanda and Buxar, adjacent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi, where voting percentages were in the range of 22% to 24% - Bihar has virtually gone to sleep.