High voter turnout: What does it mean? Who will win?

High voter turnout: What does it mean? Who will win?

High voter turnout: What does it mean? Who will win?

The impressive turnouts in the Lok Sabha elections so far have opened up a debate on what an increased voter turnout means.

Less than half – 232 seats – out of the total 543 seats have gone to the polls so far including 121 in 12 states on April 17. Another 117 in 11 states will vote on April 24. 

According to official sources, there has been an average increase of 10 per cent voter turnout for seats that voted so far, when compared to the 2009 elections.

Several states reported record percentage of voting. Among individual constituencies, the leader in terms of the most significant increase has been Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir which reported 69 per cent voting compared to 45 of 2009! The first phase of polling for four seats saw a massive 80-82 per cent voting in West Bengal.

Hitherto, high turnout has been attributed to anti-incumbency voting and in the present case, it is being read as a vote against the Congress-led UPA government. 

BJP leaders are insisting that the trend indicates a vote of confidence for their prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Rajeeva Karandikar, director, Chennai Mathematical Institute, supports this theory. 

“By and large, high voting is known to be against the incumbent, especially when the Opposition makes that extra effort to win over people. This time, BJP has done that.

Low voter turnout happens when there is no dominant issue, people get indifferent,” he told Deccan Herald.

However, he noted that it was difficult to decipher the massive voter interest in West Bengal ruled by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress.

However, those who believe in ‘vote for change’ because of a high turnout failed to respond properly when asked about those states which voted back parties consecutively for two, three or four terms. The voting in states like Delhi (when Sheila Dikshit kept returning to power), Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, etc. witnessed impressive polling in the recent past but the incumbent repeatedly won.

Balveer Arora, former rector, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, agrees. “It is too simplistic to say that higher voting percentage is for change. There is no co-relation. Higher turnout may be because of local factors. For me, it was only in 1977 that people came out in large numbers with a motto to throw Indira Gandhi out,” he said, referring to the election following the controversial Emergency imposed in 1975.

Premchand Palety of C-Fore, a market research firm, said that co-relation between turnout and results is not always necessary. “As per our calculations, 60 per cent of the time, higher turnout has led to change while in 40 per cent of cases the Opposition party has lost,” he said. “If turnout is 10 per cent or above than the previous elections, then the possibility of the ruling party losing is high,” he predicted.

One feature that has spurred interest is the large turnout by the Muslim community (like UP’s western parts and Rohailkhand) which is generally seen as consolidation of their vote against Modi-led BJP. “The very high turnout among minorities should be a cause of concern for the BJP. 

However, in multi-cornered contests like in UP, it may favour the BJP in parts since there are many claimants for the minority votes which may get divided. We should also keep in mind that the Hindu voters have voted in large numbers but it is true that we have seen vigour among the Muslims to vote across the country,” Pelaty observed.

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