Pune: Low turnout makes BJP jittery, Cong-NCP hopefulhttps://indianexpress.com/elections/maharashtra-low-turnout-makes-bjp-jittery-cong-ncp-hopeful-6082976/

Pune: Low turnout makes BJP jittery, Cong-NCP hopeful

BJP says ‘have to figure out reasons’; Cong says ‘beginning of downfall of ruling party’

Maharashtra: Low turnout makes BJP jittery, Cong-NCP hopeful
Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in the Assembly elections have been kept in the strongroom of the godown at the Food Corporation of India in Koregaon Park. Counting of votes will take place on October 24. (Express Photo by Ashish Kale)

The drop in the voter turnout in all eight Assembly segments in Pune, particularly those in which the BJP had won by a large margin in the 2014 polls, has mildly boosted hopes of the Congress-NCP alliance.

In the Assembly elections held on Monday, the five segments considered to be BJP bastions — Kasba, Kothrud, Shivajinagar, Vadgaonsheri and Parvati — saw a sharp drop in voter turnout compared to 2014.

Even BJP leaders admitted that the low turnout was a cause of worry. “Low voter turnout is a major concern. There is a need to go to the root cause of the issue, as it may be due to various factors,” said city Mayor Mukta Tilak, who contested from Kasba seat.

Tilak said one possible cause of the low turnout could be that a large number of voters had migrated to other areas and election authorities had failed to delete their names, as well as those of deceased voters, from the voters’ list.

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Congress leaders, meanwhile, are counting on the low turnout to propel them to a win in some constituencies. “The drop in voter turnout in BJP

strongholds is an indication of the beginning of downfall of the ruling party. It shows that their popularity is decreasing. We stand a good chance in

Kasba, Pune Cantonment and Shivajinagar,” said city Congress chief Ramesh Bagwe, who contested from Pune Cantonment.

The Congress had fielded its candidates from these three seats, while NCP candidates contested from four other Assembly segments in Pune city.

One of the most-discussed Assembly segments, Kothrud, saw the voter turnout drop by as much as 8.4 per cent compared to the 2014 polls.

Considered a ‘safe seat’ for the saffron combine, the BJP had fielded state party chief Chandrakant Patil in his first electoral battle, against MNS’

Kishore Shinde. The Congress and NCP had extended their support to Shinde.

“The Kothrud constituency has been a bastion of the saffron combine for a long time and in the recent Lok Sabha elections, which the BJP won by a record margin, it was Kothrud which provided the largest lead among the Assembly segments. With the state BJP chief in fray, the party didn’t want to take any chances in these elections. It invested a lot of energy and time trying to win this assembly seat, with all city BJP leaders campaigning for Patil. But such a drop in the voter turnout was not expected,” said a BJP leader.

In another BJP stronghold, Shivajinagar, the drop in voter turnout is being seen as a result of factionalism within the party. The BJP had fielded Siddarth Shirole, son of former MP Anil Shirole, in place of sitting legislator Vijay Kale.

It had led to protests from within the BJP unit of Shivajinagar, and some of Kale’s supporters may have stayed away from campaigning or voting for the BJP nominee.

But even in Vadgaonsheri, where the BJP had fielded sitting legislator Jagdish Mulick, thereby ruling out any factionalism, the turnout dropped by 7.10 per cent. The BJP’s efforts to widen its voter base, by inducting local NCP leaders, didn’t quite yield expected results.

Another BJP leader said the party was trying to figure out the reasons behind the low turnout. “It is difficult to understand the reason behind the low turnout… the poll results will provide us with some answers,” he said.

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In Parvati, where city BJP chief Madhuri Misal is aiming for a victory hattrick, an NCP leader said, “The voter turnout should have increased, especially because the city BJP chief was contesting the seat. But it fell by 6.83 per cent… this means all is not well with the BJP in Pune”.