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The good and bad of low turnout

The election Commission (EC) cracked the whip and Uttar Pradesh witnessed a rare phenomenon — peaceful polls, reports Chandrakant Naidu.
None | By Chandrakant Naidu, Lucknow
UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2007 03:32 AM IST

The election Commission (EC) cracked the whip and Uttar Pradesh witnessed a rare phenomenon — peaceful polls. The gunrunners, booth-capturers, hoardings and graffiti gave way to a low-decibel event. The central paramilitary forces successfully kept anti-socials at bay. And the EC gave itself a pat on the back for a job well done.

But a fallout of the massive security was a drop in voter turnout. Only 46 per cent of the 11 crore voters came out to vote. The EC has said this is no cause for concern as it just means that there was no bogus voting.

The Bahujan Samaj Party agrees. The party’s media advisor Sudhir Goel said such things were common during elections. “The EC must be praised for peaceful conduct of the elections,” he said.

According to constitutional expert Zafaryab Jilani: “Elections free from excessive propaganda allowed the voter to make a studied choice of his candidate without being influenced by extraneous considerations.”

“Even if polling percentage dropped this time, voters’ confidence will be restored. Voter participation will improve in the subsequent elections,” said veteran journalist Shaheer Hydar.

But there are voices of dissent. The Samajwadi Party has missed no chance to lash out at the EC. First, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and party general secretary Amar Singh said the elections had become a battle between the EC and the SP. On Wednesday, Family Welfare Minister Ahmed said: “Such measures (as the EC took) are not good for democracy.”

Former income tax chief commissioner Harish Pant believes that low voter turnout reduces a prospective government to a minority as far as representation of the people is concerned. “The percentage of votes polled was 46. Uttar Pradesh has 11 crore voters; 46 per cent of that is five crore voters. Any party that gets 30 per cent (1.5 crore) of the votes polled is likely to form government. The total population of UP is more than 18 crore. Therefore, a government elected by less than 10 per cent of the state’s population will rule the 91 per cent who did not vote for it,” said Pant.

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