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Extended weekend prompts Bangaloreans to skip voting, only 54% turnout

Friday, 18 April 2014 - 9:05am IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: dna

The bubble about Bangalore's educated and tech-savvy populace as well as its multi-faceted candidates burst in its face, when the city voted, or rather, when just over half of the city's voters cast their ballot for the 16th general election on Thursday.

Despite the motivating messages and the push to get voters out of their homes to cast their ballot, Bangalore remained largely elusive on election day. With a turnout of just 54 per cent, the city remained far behind the 65.45 per cent average turnout for the 121 constituencies that went to polls the same day. Incidentally, constituencies in traditionally-Left leaning state of West Bengal too witnessed 82 per cent voting.

"I had expected that the voting percentage would be high this time since there was a lot of buzz, especially among young voters," said Dr Sudarshan Ballal, medical director, Manipal Hospitals. "But the Bangalore voting percentage has been disappointing."

Like Dr Ballal, many citizens, who did take time out to vote, had scathing remarks for fellow Bangaloreans.

"At a time when the reach of social media is so strong, and parties and candidates have been coaxing people to vote, while citizens have been posting selfies after voting, the turnout should have been better.

But I guess some people are just indifferent no matter how much candidates and conscious citizens try to motivate others to vote," said 19-year-old Prasad M Kumar, a biotech student and first-time voter.

Noted environmentalist Suresh Heblikar said: "There is lot of cynicism among people. One reason could be that the people are not happy with the candidates and hence not interested in coming out to vote.

Besides, because of the long holiday, starting from Thursday, some would have preferred to go on a holiday rather than stay put and vote."

The city has four Parliamentary constituencies — Bangalore North, Bangalore South, Bangalore Central and Bangalore Rural — and the contest between candidates was built up to be a stiff one, especially the one in South between Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani and BJP's Anantha Kumar. Some were expecting the turnout this time to be as high as 70 per cent.

Many companies had announced a holiday on Thursday to motivate employees to vote. But the gesture backfired. The long weekend, compounded by the fact that schools and colleges have been shut for summer vacations, has been touted as the biggest reason for the disappointing turnout. "If people want to vote, they will vote. The dates coinciding with public holidays are only excuses," said Saritha Radhakrishna, a programmer from Malleswaram.

PV Mohandas Pai of Bangalore Political Action Committee (BPAC), suggested that citizens shouldn't have to be tied to their geographical location in order to vote. "Bangalore has a lot of migrant population, and it would help if India had a system like in the US where there is better provision for citizens to vote while they are travelling and not stationed at their hometown."

Karnataka's chief electoral officer Anil Kumar Jha, however, said that the turnout in the city had increased. "The percentage of polling has increased by six per cent in Bangalore and across the state compared to the 2009 Lok Sabha poll turnout. Generally, the percentage of polling in Lok Sabha election will be lower than in the Assembly election."

AAP candidate and former Infosys CEO V Balakrishnan, who had been pushing people on social media to go out and vote, tweeted: "We can't question the system if we don't exercise our franchise. Exercise your franchise first, then demand accountability."

Reasons for no-show
Many companies declared Thursday a holiday to encourage people to vote; the extended weekend, owing to a Good Friday holiday, seems to have pushed many to holiday out of town
2) Since schools, colleges have shut for summer vacations, many residents have already left town
3) Poor turnout also indicates candidates' disconnect with voters

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