DC Edit | Low voter turnout not healthy for democracy

As the elections to the 18th Lok Sabha covers its major portions with voters in 428 of the 543 constituencies exercising their franchise by the fifth of seven phases, the low turnout of voters remains a concern for all, as reflected by the note of the Election Commission of India. While the first four phases saw a collective 66.95 per cent voting, the figure for the fifth was substantially lower at 60.4 per cent.

The EC had earlier called upon voters in the fifth phase, which covered the big cities of Mumbai and Lucknow, to shed their “urban apathy”. Its exhortation does appear to have reverberated with the electorate, who in their large numbers chose to skip the exercise and either remain indoors or go off on a tour, thanks to the extended weekend facilitated by the voting on a Monday. As per EC, Maharashtra recorded its lowest polling at 54.33 per cent; Uttar Pradesh also has a lower 57.79 per cent of voters pressing the button on the electronic voting machine. On the higher side, West Bengal had a voting of 76.05 per cent.

It does not augur well for democracy, which is still a work in progress in this country, to have almost half of its electorate say no to one of its key elements — the election. Pundits will come up with a number of reasons for the voter apathy, which may vary from the perception that the outcome has already been decided and that their votes do not count or will not make a difference to an understanding that that their lives are not going to change, whatever the results. The “urban apathy” that the EC is worried about has a lot to do with such thought processes which would be tough to change in the short term.

A refreshing change is seen in rural areas across the nation where political processes are reflected in the day-to-day lives of the people. The people there believe that they are responsible for the democratic Constitution of the country and hence have a stake in the running of the nation. They believe political parties are answerable to them and the vote is the tool to send the message across. They need not be told about shedding their apathy; they know that they cannot afford to be apathetic or indifferent to what is happening around them. They are the political force that has struck at the right time in our history and sent the self-righteous, self-serving politician for refresher courses in democratic governance. India as a nation owes them its gratitude for the safekeeping of its democracy.

The higher turnout in militancy-torn Baramulla is refreshing. At 58.17 per cent — the highest in three decades — more than half of the voters of the constituency have come out and spoken about their choice to represent them in the Lok Sabha. The people of the state have often been vilified for their disinterest in the democratic process but the fact remains that given a chance they would never let it go. It is for the government now to build on the trust and help the state return to the national mainstream. Elections to the state Assembly will be a fitting start to the process.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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