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'Decline in Voter Turnout in Absolute Numbers More Mysterious Than Low Polling Percentages'

Calling it a 'rarity', Praveen Chakravarthy of the Congress says that 115 of the 427 constituencies voted so far showed a drop in voter turnout in terms of absolute numbers. 
Voters standing in queue to cast their votes at a polling booth in Telangana's Nagarkurnool. Photo: X (Twitter)/ @CEO_Telangana.

New Delhi: Lower voter turnout has been a subject of much discussion and debate this election season. The polling percentages are being read differently by different people, drawing diverse conclusions – from some saying it is advantageous to the ruling party to others saying it is beneficial for the Opposition. A few commentators also advise caution, underlining that there is no positive correlation between poll percentages and poll outcome.

Weighing in on the issue, Praveen Chakravarthy of the Congress writes in The Hindu that the issue that should be of significant concern is not that of declining voter turnout in terms of percentages but the decrease being seen in terms of absolute numbers. Analysing voter turnout numbers until phase 5 whereby 427 out of 543 constituencies have already voted, Chakravarthy says nearly one-third of constituencies witnessed lower voter turnout in terms of absolute numbers in comparison to the 2019 general election. Simply put, fewer number of voters came out to vote in 115 out of 427 constituencies this time around when compared to data from the same set of constituencies in the 2019 general election.

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

“It is almost unparalleled in India’s electoral history that in such a large number of constituencies, there is a decline in total voters from the previous election held five years ago. Remember, these are not voter turnout percentages but absolute total numbers of people who voted,” underlines Chakravarthy, who is the chairman of All India Professionals’ Congress and Data Analytics of Congress.

Calling it a “rarity”, he says it is unusual in a developing or growing country like India, where everything from prices of essential goods, population, GDP, agricultural production, and professionals’ salaries are on the rise. While the percentage or rate of increase for each of these parameters varies from year to year, absolute numbers, however, go up, barring some exceptional conditions.

Chakravarthy’s analysis delves even deeper to look at where these constituencies are from, state-wise, and which party won in each of the constituencies in 2019. He underlines why voter turnout percentage is an “insufficient measure” to understand this “mysterious trend”.

Without drawing any conclusion, he says, “It is best to avoid conjectures and let the Election Commission explain this mysterious trend.”

Even in terms of percentage, the voter turnout dropped in every phase, except the fourth phase, in comparison to the 2019 figures. In the first phase, 66.1% voter turnout was recorded compared to 69.4% in 2019. Similarly, 66.7% cast their votes in the second phase corresponding to 69.2% in the 2019 polls.

The same trend was witnessed in the third phase as well: 65.68% this time around and 68.4% in 2019.

Only in the fourth phase, the voter turnout percentage went up to 69.16% – 3.65 percentage points higher than the corresponding phase in the 2019 parliamentary polls.

The same declining trend was also witnessed in the fifth phase. At 62.19%, it is 1.97 percentage points less than 2019.

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