Tens of thousands of votes in the ongoing Uttar Pradesh assembly elections are not being polled. The reason? Lack of development has forced a number of voters to migrate to other parts of India, or even other countries, in search of jobs.
The second and third phases of the elections polled 59% and 57% votes respectively, compared with 62% in the first phase.
The state's chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha said poor weather prevented a lot of voters from turning out in the first phase, or the contrast would have been starker.
The second round was held in eastern UP, "a chronically low voting area because of the migratory nature of the population," Sinha said. Migration is a way of life in southeast UP too, where the third phase was held."Despite knowing they will not be able to vote, many people retain their voter ID cards as identity proof. They also do so because their families still live here. That is why these people stay on the voter list despite revision of electoral rolls," he said.
Turnout in Bundelkhand, which voted in the fourth phase and will vote again in the fifth on February 23, may be marginally better, Sinha said.
"Most of the eastern UP migrants go to the Gulf countries and far-off Indian cities like Mumbai. But the Bundelkhand-origin labour works in closer places like Delhi, Punjab or other parts of UP itself. Many of them might return to vote," he said.
But Rajeev Khandelwal, who runs Ajeevika Bureau, a Rajasthan-based NGO that works with migrant labourers, said that may not happen. "Owing to the seasonal nature of migration, the migrant workers will not return a week or two before Holi."
With Holi on March 8, the fourth and fifth-phase polls would be long over before the migrants return.