Half of voters show reluctance to vote in Tirupati bypoll

Election officers and collectors seal on strong room for EVMs at SV Arts College in Tirupati on Sunday
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Election officers and collectors seal on strong room for EVMs at SV Arts College in Tirupati on Sunday

Highlights

  • The Assembly segment records only 50.58 per cent polling which is 65.94 in 2019 general elections
  • Fears of rigging with the presence of large number of outsiders, scorching heat and Covid infections are said to be other reasons

Tirupati: Continuing the past trend, only half of the total electorate has voted in Tirupati Assembly segment for the byelection held to elect a new member of Parliament on Saturday. The urban voters' reluctance to exercise their franchise in the elections has become a subject for discussion in every election at several places.

Out of 2,82,342 voters, 1,42,814 have cast their votes in the byelection which was 50.58 per cent only. In the 2019 general elections, this Assembly segment recorded 65.94 per cent voting while it was 59.51 per cent in 2014. In the byelection held for Tirupati Assembly seat in 2015 following the death of TDP MLA in 2015, 50.78 per cent polling was held. In the 2004 and 2009 elections also the polling percentage was only 50.94 and 51.64 respectively.

In the first two hours, 6.50 per cent voting was recorded which went up to 32.12 by 1 pm and to 45.85 by 5 pm and to 50.58 at the closing time of 7 pm. Though the segment has recorded an average of around 50-55 per cent polling in every election with a peak of 65.94 per cent in 2019, the spread of Covid infections was being cited for the present low turnout.

Instead of ending polling by 5 pm as per general practice, the Election Commission has extended the polling time up by two hours to end at 7 pm. Officials have given Covid patients a chance to vote during the last one hour of polling.

Some people have said that due to scorching heat they did not venture to go out to cast their votes. It may be noted here that in 2019 also, polling was held in April second week only. Another argument for the low voter turnout was that people were scared to go out amid fears of rigging which may lead to tensions and a few sporadic incidents.

The large gatherings of outsiders on the streets in the city from the morning and the news channel reports that they have been brought here from other parts of the district to vote in favour of the ruling party have made some people think twice before going to the polling booths. An MBA student said that he went to the polling booth but learned that his vote was cast by someone else already. With this, he asked the remaining four persons in his home and a few others in the neighbouring house not to go all the way to booth as it would be a futile exercise. There were several examples like this.

However, opposition parties have alleged that many bogus votes were polled denying the real voters their right. The number of such bogus votes might have increased the poll percentage to reach around 50 per cent and had the real voters come to the polling stations the percentage would have been even more.

Apart from severe heat and Covid fears, P Naveen Kumar Reddy, Rayalaseema Porata Samithi convenor, said the main reason for the low voter turnout is people are vexed up with the local political leaders' attitude. Neither leaders nor even booth-level in charges have not asked votes by going door-to-door except conducting roadshows. Almost all political parties have concentrated on obstructing bogus voters but not focussed on making the real voters go to polling booths, he pointed out. The people are frustrated by seeing the news of the large-scale rigging and they remain indoors.

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