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High turnout in MP tribal belt worries Congress

High 66.36% voting, particularly in tribal regions and Malwa areas, has left Cong worried as a large turnout signifies anti-incumbency feeling.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2003 14:26 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Bucking the trend of polling between 50 and 60 per cent, voters in December 1 VidhanSabha elections in Madhya Pradesh turned out in large numbers to record a high 66.36 per cent voting in the state, according to final figures released by the office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO).

In the 1998 Vidhan Sabha polls, the districts which now remain in Madhya Pradesh after Chhattisgarh was carved out had recorded an average of 60.16 per cent voting.

Generally, the districts of Gond tribal belt like Balaghat, Mandla, Dindori, Katni, Narsinghpur and Seoni and Malwa region have recorded huge turnout.

In Shahdol, the polling was 77.30 per cent - the highest in the district - while it was only marginally lower at 77.19 per cent in Seoni.

While the higher voting in the belt is being attributed to the mobilisation by tribal outfit Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP), in Malwa, it's believed to be largely the effort of the strong BJP-RSS cadre in the saffron stronghold that resulted in higher turnout.

Another factor that may have contributed to large rural voting is fascination generated by the novelty of electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Conventional wisdom has it that a large turnout of voters is bad news for the ruling party as it signifies anti-incumbency feeling. However, there are many exceptions to the perception like Berasia constituency where despite 68 per cent turn out in last polls, ruling party candidate won with a handsome margin of 20,000 votes against the main BJP rival.

Anti-incumbency factor there might have worked against the sitting BJP candidate who had won the seat many times over, lending credence to Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's theory that it works against the individual, not the party.

Likewise, if traditional anti-incumbency theory were to work against the sitting Congress stalwarts like Subhash Yadav, KP Singh and Ajay Singh, the percentage of voting wouldn't have remained the same or come down in their respective constituencies.

In Yadav's Kasrawad segment, the percentage was 74.14 in 1998 and 74.32 this year, in Ajay Singh's Churhat it was 68.25 per cent in 1998 and 68.39 per cent this year and in KP Singh's Pichhore it came down from 80.32 to 77.72.

Likewise in Speaker Sriniwas Tiwari's Mangawan constituency in Rewa district the voter turnout dipped from 60.33 per cent in 1998 to 49.58 per cent in 2003 polls.

In the districts of Malwa and Nimar, largely believed to be under the BJP sway, the percentage of voting is higher than the last election, indicating perhaps that the RSS-BJP worked overtime to wrest the region back from the Congress which won more seats here the last time round.

The inroads made by RSS offshoots in Bhil tribe dominated districts like Barwani and Dhar on Gujarat border appear to have resulted in higher turnout.

In Badwani, for instance, voting shot up by almost ten percentage points from 61.34 to 71.67 per cent.

The only district of the region where percentage of votes polled was less than the state average and indeed less than 60 per cent remains Jhabua where only 57.67 per cent votes were cast.

First Published: Dec 03, 2003 10:00 IST