A normal poll day
On the eve of the first round of polling, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam broke from custom to address his fellow citizens, essentially to urge them to vote. Indians do not need much prompting to exercise their franchise, and the average turnout in Lok Sabha elections is nearly 60 per cent. So, probably the nagging worry that voters might be tempted to stay indoors in the hot weather may have urged the president to issue his passionate appeal.
The election under way appears to be a fairly standard one, with nothing having occurred so far to deflect it from the norm. The arrangements made by the EC also appear to be firm. In recent days, the commission has already shown its no-nonsense attitude. At Patna on Monday, the EC cancelled the vote of a prominent candidate on the ground of breach of secrecy since his wife and supporters stood with him as he voted. This will send out the right signals to candidates, their supporters and to officials. The EC’s firmness is crucial in investing the poll process with legitimacy, as we saw in the case of assembly elections in Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir. Among the states where polling was held on Monday were some of the more difficult ones, such as the insurgency-prone regions in the North-east, the Naxalite-infested parts of several states and terrorism-affected J&K.
Nor should we exclude from this count Bihar where poll-related violence occurred in all 11 of the state’s 40 constituencies where voting was held in the first round. It is possible that voter turnout in these tricky places might not match the national average, but the first round concerns only about a fourth of all Lok Sabha seats. We shall have a clearer idea of the voter’s enthusiasm after the close of the last round of voting on May 10.