Much has changed in Bengaluru in the last 10 years. With citizens becoming more vocal with their demands and seeking to play a larger role in how the city is governed, one will expect that the upcoming assembly election will witness a large voter turnout. If past data and voters are to be believed, this time around, the city is set to come out in full force to exercise its franchise.

Many view the May 12 polls as a way to make their voice heard. Tired of inaccessible politicians and petitions and ideas that fall on deaf ears, voters across constituencies in the city have made it a point to set aside time on the polling day to go and vote. “Sometimes, the margin between a good candidate losing could be just a few thousand votes. If you want good governance, it should be compulsory for you to go and vote,” says Abhay B K, a  Jayanagar resident.

Going by the past data, there was an increase of 7.51% in voter turnout in Bengaluru Urban district between the 2008 and 2013 polls. This year too, a similar or larger increase can be expected as several citizen groups like Whitefield Rising and other resident welfare associations (RWAs) have been preparing their members to vote. “We ensured that all 90 households in our project are enrolled in the voters’ list and got their voter IDs. We have been preparing since February,” says a member of a RWA in Kengeri.
However, compared to Bengaluru Rural, which saw a voter turnout of 82% in the previous assembly election, the city falls well short.

For those campaigning to increase voter turnout, convincing residents that voting is not a futile exercise is the biggest challenge. For many, the upcoming polls hold no promise of big change for the city’s infrastructure. “All options before us are bad. In my area, the candidates of the three major parties are all people who have never worked for the area nor are approachable. What is the point if voting is just about choosing a name at random without knowing about the candidates?” asks Ramesh, a voter in C V Raman Nagar.

The poll date, which is a Saturday, could also be a factor in deciding the city’s turnout. Many registered voters have already made plans to head out of the city and are not prepared to sacrifice the weekend. However, there are many more who have made plans to venture out of the city, but only after they vote.

‘Not a new phenomenon’

According to Professor Trilochan Sastry, founder member, National Election Watch, Association for Democratic Reforms, low voter turnout in urban areas is not a new phenomenon. “This is there worldwide. Lives of urban voters do not change whether they vote or not vote. There is a large floating population in cities ... they do not go out to vote since it doesn’t matter to them who gets elected. However, rural voters worry about this since the implementation of the government schemes in their area depends on that. They want to know their candidates and seek their services whereas an urban voter doesn’t care.”

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