The low voter turnout in Pune, which went to polls in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Tuesday, has raised some concern among election officials as over 50 per cent of the city’s voters stayed away from polling booths. The city recorded a turnout of only 49.84 per cent, the lowest among all Lok Sabha constituencies in the state that have gone to polls till now.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Pune had seen a voter turnout of 54.11. Since 1989, Pune has never seen a voter turnout of more than 60 per cent in parliamentary polls, with the number falling to a dismal 40.66 per cent in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Interestingly, the electoral rolls this year had over 1.25 lakh more voters compared to the 2014 elections, but the actual number of people who exercised their right to vote increased by only 40,188. “Pune has seen a low voter turnout in the last few elections, but the actual number of voters has increased,” said Naval Kishor Ram, district election officer of Pune and returning officer for the constituency.
The city saw a low turnout this year despite a spirited awareness campaign undertaken by the district election office, which helped voters understand the process, right from enrolling themselves in the voters’ lists to casting their votes. “We will study the reasons behind the low turnout and take measures in the future to improve it. But this time, the election office avoided deletion of names from electoral rolls, as against the earlier practice, when it would do so if it couldn’t locate the voter at his place of residence,” said Ram, adding that urban voters often didn’t update their addresses in the electoral rolls after shifting their residence.
In fact, the district election office was cautious this time about the names in voters’ lists, after a large number of names went missing in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, triggering a major controversy. This year, the district election office received only 35 complaints about names missing from voters’ lists. “There was no exercise to delete names from the voters’ lists this time and this could have made the actual voter number higher… the correction of electoral rolls by deleting the names of voters can provide a real picture of the voter strength during polling,” said an official from the district election office.
The Pune Lok Sabha constituency comprises the assembly segments of Vadgaonsheri, Shivajinagar, Kothrud, Parvati, Pune Cantonment and Kasbapeth. In Kasbapeth segment, 1,61,497 votes were polled this year, marginally lesser than the 1,62,097 votes polled in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Kasbapeth assembly segment is represented by state minister Girish Bapat, the BJP’s candidate for the Pune Lok Sabha seat this year.
While the number of votes polled increased marginally in Pune Cantonment and Shivajinagar, it increased substantially in Parvati (8,791 more votes), Vadgaonsheri (17,792 more votes) and Kothrud (19,946 more votes). BJP’s Anil Shirole had defeated Congress leader Vishwajeet Kadam by over three lakh votes in the 2014 elections. In the assembly elections that year, held within six months of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won all the six seats.