There is more to it than meets the eye

The record voter turnout during the ongoing multi-phase assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh holds different meanings for different people.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2012 15:02 IST
Brajendra K Parashar
Brajendra K Parashar
Hindustan Times

The record voter turnout during the ongoing multi-phase assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh holds different meanings for different people.

Some view it as an expression of voters' anti-incumbency sentiments, while there are others who say the BSP supporters are voting with a vengeance to protect their leader Mayawati from being cornered by her opponents.

As per yet another guess, there may be some larger issues --like corruption and price rise -- that are motivating the voters, especially the young voters and women. On the other hand, some observers attribute the increased voter participation to sheer awareness generated by the Election Commission and the media.

Or is it simply part of natural changes that gradually come in a society with the in literacy level and awareness?

But all the divergent views finally get converged on one thing -- that a jump of more than 24 % in voting in the five phases so far vis-à-vis 2007 is bound to have a surprise bearing on election results.

"The rise in voting percentage this time is quite significant and this may produce dramatic results altogether," says Prof Rajesh Mishra, a sociologist in Lucknow university. "A higher turnout will certainly improve the tally of the BJP and the Congress and at the same time it will not affect the SP and BSP's numbers because of their having a committed and limited vote bank," avers Prof SK Dwivedi, a political scientist in the same institution.

Contrary to what many may believe, political parties in general do not aspire for a higher voter turnout. "The bitter truth is that political parties generally never want a voter turnout more than 45-50 % because voting beyond that upsets their calculations based on caste and community dynamics," says a senior RLD) leader and sitting MLA requestin anonymity.

Experts feel apart from the voter awareness that that the election commission obviously created, the possibility of a common all-India issue being on the back of the voters' mind forcing them to vote with vengeance cannot be ruled out.

"The hunger for development among educated voters is one of the important factors that has contributed to increased voting this time," Prof Mishra stresses. He also does not rule out the possibility of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement having its impact. "The anti-corruption movement awakened young voters' interest in politics resulting in their increased participation in the voting process," he says.

But a higher voter turnout, as Pof SK Sharma, a political scientist in the Meerut University, points out, does not necessarily mean an anti-incumbency vote. For example the Mulayam Singh Yadav government was voted out of power in 2007 when voter turnout was as low as 46 %. On the other hand, even a significantly higher voting in states like Assam and Bihar last year helped the incumbent parities to return to power comfortably. "The traditional definition of a higher or lower turnout being indication of an anti or pro government voting not always holds true," Prof Sharma clarifies.

First Published: Feb 28, 2012 14:59 IST