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OUR POLITICAL BUREAU
The country recorded its highest voter turnout since independence in this election with the Election Commission (EC) putting the overall polling figure at 66.38%, a little over two percentage points more than the record set in 1984.
The record-setting trend wasn’t confined to the voter turnout. Lok Sabha 2014 elections also happened to be the most expensive polls in the history of independent India, as it cost the state exchequer ` 3,428 crore. The 2009 general election had cost ` 1,483 crore. That apart, the EC also seized the biggest cache of liquor, drugs and cash recorded during any elections in the country.
Although the voter turnout figures available on Monday evening were provisional, the poll panel is confident that the country has created a record this time. According to Akshay Rout, director general at EC, the tentative turnout percentage does not include postal ballots and repolling figures. It also doesn’t take into account voting that went beyond the 6 pm deadline.
“In fact, once we include that, the polling percentage is expected to increase even further but marginally,” he told reporters on Monday.
While the record figures point to an increase in the absolute number of voters who exercised their franchise as opposed to 2009, it can also be attributed to the EC’s special initiative to clean up electoral rolls.
“In 2009, 41.73 crore voters cast their voteandthistimethisnumberstands at 55.13 crore. This is an increase of 32% in terms of absolute number of voters,” Rout added.
About 1 5 s t at e s a nd Union Territories recorded a historic tur nout, which includes states such as UP (58.63%), TN (73.68%), AP (74.24%) and Gujarat (63.31%). The most keenly watched constituency—Varanasi — too saw voters coming out in never-seen-before numbers. This Lok Sabha seat, which witnessed a tri-cornered fight between BJP’s Narendra Modi, AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal and Congress’ Ajay Rai registered a polling percentage of 55.34% as against 43.34% in 2009.
“In the last five years, EC has focused on increasing voter awareness and their registration. The total electorate for 2014 Lok Sabha elections increased by over 10 crore voters compared to 2009,” Rout said.
“I don’t think there is any correlation between high turnout, incum- bent government and the aspirant party. I would attribute the high turnout to the efforts of the Election Commission. Also, the general context of these elections, which is broadly anti-corruption, has found appealamongvotersandmanagedto mobilisethem,”saidpoliticalanalyst Neera Chandoke.