Low Voter Turnout in Delhi Polls: Heat, pro-incumbency, disgust with cheap political tactics are blamed

Braving the blazing summer heat at 40 degrees Celsius, Delhiites stepped out to exercise their franchise for their seven seats. However, the turnout was notably less than other years.

 |  6-minute read |   12-05-2019
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In the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on Sunday (May 12, 2019), the country’s capital Delhi recorded a low voter turnout till 3 PM with 60% of the voters having cast their vote, according to the Election Commission of India's (ECI) Voter Turnout App. 

The morning itself saw a bit of a lull with the total turnout being less than 8% till 9 AM. "The total turn out in first two hours was 7.67 per cent," a senior official in the Delhi CEO office told mediapersons. Voting percentage recorded till 9 AM was — Chandni Chowk: 6.9%, North East Delhi: 8.61%, East Delhi: 8.31%, New Delhi: 6.48%, North West Delhi: 8%, West Delhi: 8.33% and South Delhi at 7.05%.

Some pockets in Delhi saw a significant senior citizen turnout. In some cases, senior citizens had to be seated on chairs that were lifted and carried into the polling booth. In other cases, the queues witnessed a long chain of wheelchairs on which senior citizens waited patiently in the blazing sun to exercise their franchise.

main_old-voter-prasa_051219061249.jpgA senior citizen being brought to the polling station by officials in New Delhi constituency. (Photo: Vaishnavi V)

111-year-old Bachan Singh — who is the oldest voter in Delhi — voted at the polling station in Tilak Vihar.

According to media reports, the centenarian — who has never missed out on an election since 1951 — used to cycle to the polling booth to cast his vote until the last Assembly elections in 2015. However, he suffered a paralysis attack three months ago that left him bed-ridden. Today, he reached the voting centre in a car along with poll officers, where he was wheeled into the booth using a chair.

"I will vote for those who worked for us," he reportedly emphasized. Interestingly, he doesn't know that there is a party called the AAP and that Arvind Kejriwal is the chief minister of Delhi. "For him, every election has been a contest between the BJP and the Congress," his youngest son, 63-year-old Jasbeer Singh, reportedly said.

A relatively low voter turnout of 61.14% — as compared to 2014 Lok Sabha elections — was recorded in the national capital as of Sunday evening when the polling ended. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the city saw a 65.09% voter turnout.

Delhiites today will decide the fate of at least 164 candidates, who are fighting for the seven Lok Sabha seats in the capital. In 2014, the BJP won all the seven seats and is looking to repeat the feat. The three main parties — BJP, Congress and AAP — have fielded their state party chiefs from a single constituency. BJP’s Manoj Tiwari, DPCC chief Sheila Dikshit and AAP’s Delhi chief Dilip Pandey are all locking horns in north-east Delhi constituency that is reeling under the key issues of bad roads, overflowing drains and garbage disposal.

main_north-east-delh_051219062453.jpgAAP’s Delhi chief Dilip Pandey (L), DPCC chief Sheila Dikshit (M), BJP’s Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari (R): The battle for north-east Delhi. (Photo: DailyO)

In south Delhi constituency, Olympian Vijender Singh is battling it out with AAP's Raghav Chadha and BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri. While 33-year-old Vijender is popular among the masses as India's only Olympic bronze-medal winning boxer, 31-year-old Chadha has capitalised on star power with actors like Gul Panag and Prakash Raj campaigning for him. BJP veteran 57-year-old Ramesh Bidhuri is the sitting MP from the constituency after winning the seat by a significant margin in 2014. He has been the MLA thrice in the past, elected from the Tuglakabad Assembly constituency.

As has been seen in the past of candidates alleging malpractices against opponents, South Delhi candidates did not disappoint this time either on the tamasha front.

AAP's Raghav Chadha alleged bogus voting by BJP workers. He claimed that BJP workers were voting four times. "BJP workers are moving around in a polling booth in Sangam Vihar in BJP scarves — a person voted four times. We identified 8-10 such people and caught one of them red-handed. Ramesh Bidhuri is losing badly, so is indulging in such tactics," Chadha reportedly said.

An intense campaign, peppered with bitter allegations and aspersions cast on candidates’ characters, was witnessed in the east Delhi constituency too which is seeing a triangular battle between AAP’s Atishi, BJP’s Gautam Gambhir and Congress candidate Arvinder Singh Lovely.

main_east-delhi_051219062103.jpgArvinder Singh Lovely (L), Atishi (C) and Gautam Gambhir (R) battle it out in East Delhi. (Photo: DailyO)

In a country that worships its cricketers, Gautam Gambhir's career as the opening batsman for the Indian team and captaining the erstwhile IPL team from Delhi — the Delhi Daredevils — is a huge trump card in this election. However, Atishi and Arvinder Singh Lovely are no novices. Marlena holds a degree from Oxford University, is a qualified teacher and most importantly, has done significant groundwork in the constituency. She worked as Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia's advisor on a token monthly salary of Re 1 for three years and has been at the helm of AAP’s claimed efforts of improving education facilities in the capital.

She and eight other advisors to the Delhi government were sacked by the Centre last year — the sacking also won them significant support over what they projected as being targeted by the BJP.

Two days ago, Atishi and other AAP leaders accused her rival Gautam Gambhir of distributing "derogatory pamphlets" about her. Responding to the allegations, Gambhir said that he would quit politics if the charges against him were proven. He also sent the AAP leaders legal notices.

Despite the party being dismissed after the Lok Sabha elections 2014 and the subsequent Delhi Assembly polls, former DPCC chief Arvinder Singh Lovely, the Congress candidate from east Delhi, has the maximum political experience among the three. He has never lost an election — and he won by the largest margin in Delhi in three of the four elections where he has contested in the Assembly polls of 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013. Lovely has served as a former Minister holding multiple portfolios in Sheila Dikshit’s cabinet.

New Delhi constituency will see BJP’s sitting lawmaker Meenakshi Lekhi locking horns with Congress’s Ajay Maken and Aam Admi Party's Brijesh Goyal.

Lekhi has been accused of being inaccessible to voters and Congress, which did not win even a single seat in Delhi in 2014, many claim, is "the only party that can provide stable government," a statement oft repeated by former Union Minister Ajay Maken.

What the voters think will now be evident on May 23.

Also read: Dear Arvind Kejriwal, an open letter from a South Indian in India's capital

Writer

Rajeshwari Ganesan Rajeshwari Ganesan @rajeshwaridotg

Assistant Editor, DailyO

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