67% queue up for Telangana’s first poll

HYDERABAD: Voters in Telangana, especially Hyderabad, stayed away from polling booths in fairly large numbers on Friday, despite the state holding its first ever assembly election after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014. Even as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram recorded more than 70% voting, in Telangana the provisional figure was 67%. This is lower than the 2014 when assembly elections figure of 69.5%.

Chief electoral officer Dr Rajat Kumar said, “Polling percentage is almost same as 2014. The 67 per cent we have recorded now may go up a little bit and end up almost same as last polls.”

The performance of the 15 constituencies in Hyderabad district was worse at an abysmal 50.8%. It is among the lowest in the state and doesn’t even match turnouts in previous elections. The fast-growing metropolis had recorded 53% voting in 2014 and 58% in 2009. Sources in the Election Commission attributed the drop to voting being conducted on the weekend, followed by holidays, resulting in an exodus from Hyderabad.

Amid the apathy, many who wanted to vote, found their names missing from the voter list.

Hyderabad preferred weekend gateways to booth; sharp vote fall in 2 elections

Official sources said Old City voters participate vigorously in GHMC elections compared to the assembly polls. For instance, 56% voters cast their votes in 2014, but it dipped to 46% this election. “Interestingly, political parties did not show much interest in bringing or motivating people to cast their votes. By 3 pm, just 27% voters cast their votes in Yakutpura and 31% in Charminar,” an official said. Also, one of the reasons for the low voter turnout could be it being Friday.

Some voters in segments such as Secunderabad Cantonment and Musheerabad did not show interest to vote. Against 50% in 2014, only 48% votes were polled in Secunderabad Cantonment and 51% against 54% in Musheerabad. Surrounding assembly constituencies like Serilingampally, Ibrahimpatnam and Uppal too fell flat of the previous mark. There was, however, improvement in constituencies like Kukatpally, Maheshwaram, Medchal, Khairtabad and Secunderabad. In Kukatpally, the voter turnout grew by seven per cent (57%) compared to the previous elections.

There has been a steady decline in the voting percentage in the past two elections. In 2009, Hyderabad had recorded 58%, while it was 53% in 2014. Officials said the city voters were always reluctant to vote compared to their rural counterparts.

GHMC commissioner Dana Kishore said every effort was made to improve the voting percentage in the city by taking up awareness programmes in all assembly segments, involving residential welfare associations, NGOs and commercials.

“We think as there are three continuous holidays, (Friday poll holiday, Second Saturday and Sunday) people generally go on a holiday or go out of the city. This must have impacted the voting turnout. We have to still analyse the issue in depth,” Dana Kishore told TOI.

GHMC officials, who had worked as returning officers in the 2014 elections, claimed the major reason for poor turnout was that most voters think that polling day is a public holiday and enjoy watching movies or engage in other entertainment activities. “Some people were unable to find their polling booths, keep away from casting their vote and other category is duplicate voters, where voters move from one locality to other, and they continue to hold voting right in both the constituencies,” a former returning officer told TOI.

Former MP Lagadapati Rajagopal analysed the poor turnout and said that the electorate, who have come to the city for their jobs and works, left for their respective villages. Secondly, many voters, especially people from lower strata, do not have patience to check their names in the list or online and exercise their franchise. There were also a large number of double voters, i.e., they have votes in Hyderabad and in their native places too.

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