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Lok Sabha elections 2014: Voters give the finger, and how

Friday, 11 April 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

A high voter turnout, and a largely peaceful election, with the exception of one incident in Aurangabad in Bihar, where two CRPF personnel were killed in a mine blast overnight, were the highlights of the third phase of elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.

Polling in this phase took place in 91 constituencies spread across three UTs and 11 states, including J&K, Maharashtra, Kerala, UP and in Delhi, where seven constituencies went to polls, with Kapil Sibal fighting to retain his Chandni Chowk seat.

In Delhi, voting percentage at the end of polling stood at 64, a couple of per cent lower than the huge numbers who voted in the recent Delhi assembly elections that catapulted the AAP into serious contention with the Congress and the BJP.

So, what's behind the higher than average turnout, this time?

In Kerala, it was a 73.4%; and in Chandigarh, it was 74%. In Sasaram in Bihar, from where Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, is contesting, it was 54%.

Has cynicism taken a back seat? Is that why people came out and voted?

Sanjay Kumar, professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), took that question. "BJP's aggressive style of campaigning and the elimination of ghost voters from the electoral lists are behind the high voter turnout," he told dna.

Significantly, he gave the boot to anti-incumbency as a factor. "There is no direct relationship between who forms the government and high voter turnout," he said, giving examples of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, where governments got re-elected despite high voter turnouts.

He also brought up the AAP factor. "AAP gave a chance to many people to get involved in politics, who otherwise had lost interest in the existing style of politics. More people have started participating in political discourses now than it used to be earlier."

Anger and a fervent desire for a change also made people queue up to ink their fingers. In Delhi, people came out in huge numbers to vent their anger against the system and for "change". There was an opportunity at hand and people grabbed it with open arms, said housewife Nisha Jha of Yamuna Vihar in North East Delhi Lok Sabha constituency. She said she voted for change. "Many promises were made...

Prices of all essentials skyrocketed. The government failed to control it," she said.

The urge for change and retribution was overwhelming. "I came to vote out of frustration and anger," VK Verma, a retired government employee, said. "I voted to teach these politicians a lesson."

Another reason that contributed to the high turnout was the "youth factor", with first-time voters, who had stars in their eyes, leading the charge. They voted and then they flaunted "inked fingers" on social media. "Most of my friends posted pictures on the social media. I am a first-time voter. I've put a picture of my inked finger," an excited Vipul Rastogi, an 18-year-old student of Delhi University, said.

Other issues that brought people out to vote ranged from lousy civic conditions and life-changing national issues. The pathetic condition of roads was very much in mind when pressing the button. For banker Rajesh Kumar Singh, the poor state of economy was the catalyst. "Economic development has stalled. We need a government with a policy to improve the economy for the country's overall development," he said.

The BJP's "Ab Ki Baar Modi Sarkar" campaign took forward the idea of change. In Delhi, the "epicentre of change", most of the voters didn't even know their candidates. They came to vote either for Modi or for Kejriwal.

Against this, the Congress, "which had its chances and lost them", stood no chance. The Dalit vote has turned. So has the vote from the umpteen unauthorised colonies in the capital. They have either been hijacked by the Modi wave, or have fallen to Kejriwal charisma.

Apart from taking pride in voting, the educated youth of the capital voted for a brighter future. Many of them went the AAP way. Others voted for the BJP. "My conscience didn't allow me to vote for the Congress or the BJP. I chose AAP," Vivek Rana of Siraspur village near Rohini said.

Most of all the social media added to the groundswell of change. And mainstream media brought into that idea unabashedly, the idea that social media spouted day in and day out, that the country and its people wanted change. That India stood at the crossroads of world domination, and only a stable government at the Centre would guarantee that. So get out and vote, went the message.

Electoral authorities also had a hand in the increased turnout. Initiatives like Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Practices (SVEEP) and proactive electoral officers in many constituencies woke even sleeper cells of voters to wake up and listen to the call to vote.

Last, the sense of security that men in uniform gave to people at large did give reason to the citizen to perform his primary duty in a democracy — cast his/her vote and elect a government.
—(With inputs from Rohinee Singh)

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