On a rainy Wednesday, voting began sluggishly in Bawana — and stayed that way as the day progressed. The constituency witnessed the lowest voter turnout in 19 years — with only 45% of the total voters casting their ballot by 6 pm. The bypoll was necessitated after AAP MLA Ved Prakash defected to the BJP ahead of municipal body elections.
The first hour saw only 8% voting, which rose to 35% by 3 pm and ended at 45% by 6 pm. For Bawana — a reserved seat with 26 rural villages that have traditionally voted for BJP and unauthorised colonies, and slum clusters that have voted for the Congress and, more recently, the AAP — the voter turnout is key, all three parties maintained.
“The voting pattern here changed in 1998 when the massive migration from UP and Bihar shifted the electoral advantage away from the BJP to the Congress. Our candidate, Surender Kumar, won continuously from 1998 to 2013,” said a senior Congress leader.
Reasons for the low turnout varied. “It’s raining, but we have come out to vote in the rain before. Perhaps people are just tired. There have been four elections in the last four years, politics has become a joke,” said Mohammad Irfan, a resident of Shahbad Dairy.
Others said that in spite of the government ordering closure of factories at Bawana Industrial Area, many units remained open, which could have led to ‘disillusionment’. With voter turnout more pronounced in the densely populated ‘colonies’, where both Congress and AAP claim to hold sway, political calculations of both parties went astray.
Voting in villages will be key for AAP, which hopes to reverse its fortunes after defeats in the Punjab and Goa assembly polls and the MCD elections. “AAP had promised Rs 2 crore to each village here, a total of Rs 52 crore as part of the Smart Village scheme. It remains to be seen whether that translates to votes,” said an AAP leader.
AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj admitted that “low voter turnout is not good news”. “All reports we have received indicate we are still leading,” he said. The Congress said that “low voter turnout makes it difficult to make predictions”. Party spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee added, “We have made massive inroads in the area and our feedback has been very good.”
BJP leader Vijender Gupta said, “The turnout has been low. But for a bypoll, this is expected. We are not worried. People are tired of AAP and their gimmicks.” “The entire polling process went on peacefully and no untoward incident was reported from any part of the constituency,” Chief Electoral Officer Chandra Bhushan Kumar said.
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