Will Bengalureans turn up for polls? Civil groups try to mobilise voters
India’s information technology capital has always fared worse in terms of voting percentage, recording much lower turnout compared to other parts of the state.bengaluru Updated: Apr 24, 2018 23:33 IST
It is a refrain in Karnataka whenever elections are around that the state capital of Bengaluru will record the lowest polling percentage. Despite seeing an increase in turnout between the 2008 and 2013 assembly election, India’s information technology capital continues to lag in terms of turnout, a fact experts attribute to apathy among well-to-do voters.
According to data from the election commission, in the 2008 assembly election, the voter turnout in the city was 49.8%, the lowest in the state and way below the state average of 64.78%. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, this figure reduced further to 45.8%, again the lowest in the state, which had an average polling percentage of 58.8% that time.
In the 2013 assembly polls, turnout saw a marked increase, reaching 57.6%. However, even this was well below the state average of 71% and was again the lowest. This momentum was carried into the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when there was a slight reduction in turnout at 56%, but still much higher than the turnout recorded in 2009.The turnout across the state stood at 67.17%.
Ramesh KN, joint chief electoral officer, said the commission was trying to reach out to the people. “We are trying to mobilise voters through awareness campaigns across multiple platforms, including social media. However, the decision to either vote or not vote will have to be taken by the electors and we cannot force them to do so,” he said.
The final tally of voters in the city is yet to be released, but according to the 2011 Census, Bengaluru accounts for 14% of the state’s population and about 34% of the gross state domestic product. The greater Bengaluru area is home to 32 assembly seats.
But this time, with an aim to increase turnout, and by extension, accountability of its legislators, many organisations are trying to mobilise voters.
Srikanth Narasimhan, secretary of the Bengaluru Apartments’ Federation, said the organisation was trying to get apartment owners and residents to exercise their franchise. “There is a perception that those who live in apartments do not vote, and we feel this might be one of the reasons for politicians taking us for granted,” he said.
Also in the works are other incentives to encourage Bengaluru’s residents to vote. Madhukar Shetty, secretary of the Karnataka Hotels Association, said the association was considering a proposal to offer discounts to those who vote. “We have a meeting scheduled for April 28, when the primary topic of discussion will be this. We will ask our member hotels and chains to offer this discount as this will be our way of giving back to society...” he said.
Political analyst Narendar Pani said the turnout in Bengaluru had historically been quite low. “In fact, recent data has been a revelation in this regard, because the turnout in 2013 was quite high compared to the city’s past,” he said. Pani said underlying this trend was the difference in voting patterns between rural and urban areas. “Where groups vote together, benefits are likely to accrue. In places, like Bengaluru, where voters, especially the upper classes, are more individualistic, the benefits of voting are not quite so perceptible,” he said.