Impressive turnout

The Election Commission should be congratulated for the peaceful and efficient conduct of polls in all the states where Assembly elections have been held. No major incidents of violence or disruption of polls were reported from Assam, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala. The real credit actually goes to the people of the states but the commission had taken maximum pains to ensure that the election process was not vitiated during the campaign or on the polling day.

Repolling or countermanding of elections has not been ordered in many booths or constituencies. One factor that corrupted the election process was the large-scale bribing of voters in Tamil Nadu by the parties. The commission had taken steps to check this, but more effective measures may be necessary in future elections.

Another welcome feature of the elections was the high voter turnout. Kerala registered about 75 per cent and Tamil Nadu 75-80 per cent of polling. Assam recorded a high turnout of 76 per cent and Puducherry about 85 per cent. High voter turnout has been a feature of polling in Kerala and Puducherry. But the turnout in Tamil Nadu shows a high level of voter interest.

High voting figures are also usually indicators of electoral waves in favour of or against parties, or of the working of anti-incumbency sentiments. The Tamil Nadu polling percentages might exceed the earlier high of 1967 when the state had seen a major electoral shift. Whichever party or alliance might gain or lose from the high turnout, the high level of voter participation is salutary.

This is especially so in the case of Assam where many elections in the recent past had been marred by violence and low voter participation. Insurgent bodies like the ULFA had disrupted the election process and made free and fair exercise of voters’ choices very difficult. But most of the militant bodies, except a hardline faction of the ULFA, are engaged in peace talks now.

The election issues have also shifted from insurgency and other divisive issues to corruption and development. The high voter turnout and the peaceful conduct of the elections may be signs of this shift and of the increased confidence of the people. The Assam experience can set an example for other militancy-riddled states too.

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