Wednesday saw a higher voter turnout in Maharashtra than in 2004.
The highest was in 1995 — the year when the Shiv Sena-BJP last formed a government in the state — with 71.7% turnout. According to political analysts, the vast playing field of a five-cornered fight in this election, between the Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, BJP and MNS, was partly responsible for drawing more voters out.
The turnout of 63.40% is about 4 percentage points higher than the turnout in the last assembly election, held in 2009 — and slightly more than 3 percentage points, higher than the turnout in the high-octane Lok Sabha election held six months ago.
This is the second-highest turnout in the state in 35 years — second only to the turnout recorded in 1995. In 1978, meanwhile, the turnout was 67.6%, when the Sharad Pawar-led Progressive Democratic Front formed the government.
Voting percentages in remote and tribal areas was record-breaking on Wednesday, with some constituencies seeing turnouts of more than 80%. Karveer constituency in Kolhapur district, for instance, saw 84.37% of the registered voters turn up at the polling booths. Ulhasnagar had the state’s lowest percentage, at 36.32%.
The turnout in key cities, including Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik, remained low when compared with rural Maharashtra, as has been the norm. In these cities, turnout percentages hovered in the early 50s.
Constituencies featuring key fights and leading politicians witnessed higher turnouts.
In Karad South, for instance, where former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan is facing a tough challenge from Congress rebel Vilaskaka Undalkar-Patil, the turnout was 72%.
The turnout was similarly high in constituencies in western Maharashtra’s sugar belt, a traditional NCP stronghold where former ministers Patangrao Kadam, Harshavardhan Patil and Ajit Pawar are fighting it out against rebels and rival party candidates backed by smaller parties and alliance partners, giving the entire fight here the tone of a pitched battle.
“In the absence of the defining alliances of the Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena-BJP, there was a greater sense that every vote counted,” says political analyst Prakash Bal.
“The increased turnout could also be a result of the sustained campaign run by the BJP, stoking public anger and anti-incumbency sentiment with talk of an unstable government with no focus on development.”