Voter turnouts in Lok Sabha elections since 1952 

Voter turnouts in Lok Sabha elections since 1952 

The total number of votes dropped from 18,20,75,041 to 11,98,96,443 in the 1962 Lok Sabha polls, which recording the smallest number of votes ever polled in a Lok Sabha election in India. AFP file photo

A total of 16 Lok Sabha elections have been conducted in India since independence with the 17th currently underway. Ever since the first Lok Sabha polls in 1952, which the Congress won comprehensively, voting patterns have seen enormous fluctuations. 

With the total number of eligible voters steadily increasing since the first general elections, the total number of electors has almost quadrupled with the 2019 Lok Sabha polls amassing almost 900 million eligible voters.



The first two general elections in independent India saw good voter turnouts. With the Congress party being portrayed as the fulcrum behind the independence movement, they obtained sweeping victories across the country as Jawaharlal Nehru became prime minister of the country time and again. The high voter turnouts are reflective of the celebration of democracy and a free nation.

The first general election might have observed even better numbers had it not been for the Chief election commissioner,  Sukumar Sen's omission of names from the list. A common practice was discovered wherein women simply refused to give their proper names. They identified themselves as either A's mother or B's wife and so on. Despite repeated warnings and extensions, almost 2.8 million women failed to disclose their original names and were therefore removed from the final list.  

The total number of votes dropped significantly from 18,20,75,041 to 11,98,96,443 in the 1962 Lok Sabha polls, which recorded the smallest number of votes ever polled in a Lok Sabha election in India. The total number of eligible voters also saw a significant drop of almost 5 crore voters. The total number of electors has seen a steady rise ever since.

The Lok Sabha elections conducted in 1977 was the first one since Indira Gandhi had declared a national emergency that lasted 21 months. The voter turnout saw a big surge from the previous elections in 1971 probably owing to this reason. The election saw the Congress voted out of power for the time in free India, as Morarji Desai became the prime minister of the country. 

The 1980 general elections saw Ms Gandhi coming back to power as the Congress ousted the Janata Party from office reclaiming the Lok Sabha. The 1980 general elections, however, endured another drop in voter turnouts. Following this was the assassination of Ms Gandhi which eventually led to the sympathy wave that gave Rajiv Gandhi the largest ever win for a single party in the history of the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress received a whopping 49.1% vote share, something even Jawaharlal Nehru never managed to do. The sympathy wave would also explain the rise in voter turnout (64%) which improved tremendously from the 1980 elections. (56.9%)

Voter turnout again took a massive drop in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections from 61.9% to 55.9%. A recurring trend in the drop of voter turnouts is observed when elections are conducted due to the collapse of the government. A similar trend can be observed in 1999 elections when the turnout endured a 2% drop. However, the voter turnout did see a rise from 1996 to 1998 despite the small duration between the elections. 

Since then, the voter turnouts have been marginally looming around the 60% mark up until the 2014 polls which saw the BJP form the government. The 2014 Lok Sabha Polls had the highest voter turnout in 57 years when it recorded a 66.4 per cent turnout most of which can be attributed to the Modi wave. 

Voter turnouts have witnessed constant fluctuation over the years owing to the constant change in the political scene. A high voter turnout is a positive sign for the smooth functioning of a democracy and indicates effective public participation which is key in a country the size of India.

The first phase of the 17th Lok Sabha elections had a 69.43% voter turnout. The second and third phases of the elections registered 67.6% and 63.24% respectively.