The seven-phase Lok Sabha elections, which ended Sunday, saw a marginal increase in the overall turnout, even as women participation touched yet another high, virtually closing the gender gap in voting.
About 67% of the electorate came out to vote this time — marginally higher than the 66.44% turnout in 2014, but the highest since independence. Election Commission officials said the final figure is likely to increase.
The provisional turnout on Sunday — the final phase of voting covered 59 seats across Bihar, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal — was 64.15%.
The last nine seats of West Bengal, for which campaigning was curtailed by 20 hours by the EC following violence between TMC and BJP supporters last week, witnessed a turnout of 73.51%. The most keenly-watched constituency, Varanasi, from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is contesting for a second term, saw 57.8% polling.
With this, 542 of the 543 parliamentary seats have completed polling. In Vellore, the Lok Sabha polls were countermanded on the ground of abuse of money power. Last week, the EC sent two of its senior officers to gauge the ground situation. A call on polling in Vellore will be taken after the team submits it report, The Indian Express has learnt.
While the record turnout points to a hike in the absolute number of voters, the biggest chunk of the increase came from women. Up to the sixth phase alone, an additional 4.1 crore women had voted. “The gender gap is steadily closing. It was 9% in 2009 Lok Sabha elections, 1.4% in 2014 and now it stands at 0.4%,” Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha told reporters on Sunday.
Despite the marginal increase in overall turnout, several urban seats registered a dip this time. Of the 87 urban seats that voted in the first six phases, BJP had won 55 in 2014. More than half of these 55 urban constituencies, including in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Vadodara, saw a lower voter turnout this time.
In Delhi, where the total poll percentage saw a dip of 5%, all the seven constituencies recorded a lower voter turnout. The neighbouring constituencies in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana also saw a dip as compared to 2014. In Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Faridabad, the turnout dropped by roughly 4.08%, 1.18% and 0.84%, respectively.
The two Lok Sabha constituencies of Ahmedabad-West and Ahmedabad-East saw the turnout decrease by 2.5% and .24 per cent%. The dip in Vadodara was 3%, and 2.3% in Nagpur.
In 2014, just one of these 55 urban seats — Visakhapatnam — had recorded a lower turnout than in 2009.
In a statement on Sunday night, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said: “Barring some odd incidents here and there, that too in such a vast country which ours is with multi-fold formidable challenges in terms of terrain, weather and array of myriad local conditions, etc, thanks to the wisdom and maturity of all the stakeholders, the elections to the 17th Lok Sabha, General Assemblies of some states, and some bye-elections passed peacefully and were conducted in a free, fair and ethical manner.”