No stranger to low voter turnout, Pune Cantonment on Monday saw the lowest voter turnout, 43. 28 per cent, among the 21 Assembly constituencies in Pune district. The turnout was almost four per cent lower than the 2014 Assembly poll turnout of 47. 24 per cent. The 2014 and 2019 turnouts are, however, still higher than the dismal turnout of 35.93 per cent in the 2009 Assembly polls.
In the 2014 Assembly elections, BJP leader Dilip Kamble had won the seat by a comfortable margin of 14,955 votes, which was 10.84 per cent of the total votes polled in the constituency. This year, his brother and PMC Standing Committee chief Sunil Kamble is contesting against Congress candidate Ramesh Bagwe.
Bagwe, who is also the city Congress chief, said one of the reasons for the low turnout was that residents of several housing societies gave the voting process a miss. Abhijit Shivarkar, former corporator and general secretary of Maharashtra Pradesh Youth Congress, said the turnout had dropped quite a lot in certain pockets of the constituency. He also echoed Bagwe’s observation, that many voters from cooperative housing societies had opted not to vote.
Dr Rajas Parchure, director of the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, however, attributed the low turnout to a combination of factors, such as polling day coinciding with the beginning of Diwali vacations and a long weekend, as well as a lacklustre campaign by opposition parties.
“It counts when political workers of any party are active and they make transport arrangements or issue voting slips at societies.This was… missing and the campaign by the opposition seemed lacklustre,” said Dr Parchure.
Dr Daniel Penkar, director of the S B Patil Institute of Management, said even beyond the usual voter apathy, there was a general feeling that the BJP-Shiv Sena was going to come back to power. This made many voters feel that it would not make much difference if he or she cast their vote, said Dr Penkar.
Volunteers and workers from the Congress party also admitted to a sense of disillusionment at the party’s prospects in the Assembly elections.
They said they had campaigned enthusiastically in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, where they had gone door-to-door to seek votes. But after the disappointing results in the Lok Sabha elections — BJP had won the sole Lok Sabha seat in Pune with a record margin — they weren’t able to muster the same energy for the Assembly polls campaign.