BENGALURU: Experts and political leaders feel this year’s BBMP election will also witness low voter turnout as in previous elections. Urban voters not taking corporation elections seriously, an extended weekend and other issues are the reasons, they said.

Express spoke to some experts and stakeholders after the State Election Commission declared that the BBMP elections will be held on July 28.

Prof Trilochan Sastry, founder and trustee of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said that voter turnout being less in urban areas is a universal phenomenon. “Urban population constitutes a large chunk of floating population, who are usually not rooted to the local area and do not see any connection with local elections,” he said.

N Mukund, Joint Secretary, Citizens Action Forum said the SEC should schedule the polling day on a Sunday, other than a second Sunday and also on a day which is not sandwiched between holidays. “This will help self-employed people, private sector employees and those working in the unorganised sector to vote without losing a day’s pay. This might increase voter turnout. Now that the Election Commission has announced that the polling day will be July 28, a Tuesday, many people will take leave on Monday and go out of station. This means the voter turnout will be low again,” he said.

Former minister and BJP leader Suresh Kumar, a two-time councillor during the 1980s, said it looks like people have come to conclusion not to vote during corporation election despite candidates visiting each and every house.

“In Bengaluru, around 90 per cent of employees are working in private firms including software companies. Unless the State government announces leave with pay, many of the companies do not declare a holiday. The election being on a weekday will keep polling percentage low,” he said.

When asked about mandatory voting, Suresh Kumar said voting was made mandatory during the gram panchayat elections without penalty. “There was just 0.535 per cent increase in this year’s gram panchayat elections compared to the previous election,” he said. He however said civic issues, manifesto, candidates and their network play an important role in nudging people out of their houses to the polling stations.

State Election Commissioner P N Sreenivasachari said that in gram panchayat elections, people who are working and studying in Bengaluru went back to their villages to cast their votes. This is because the gram panchayat is a smaller place unlike Bengaluru.

“The candidates contesting in gram panchayat elections will be a familiar person, either a relative or a neighbour,” he said.

Bengaluru Urban District-in-charge Minister Ramalinga Reddy, a one-time councillor and five-time MLA, blamed officials for not deleting voters who changed their houses.

“This is why we get to see more voters and less voter turnout. However, before Assembly elections two years ago, officials deleted many such voters. Now, at least 95 per cent of voters are genuine,” he said.

He also blamed the public for not taking interest in corporation elections. “When I was a councillor between 1983-88, people were better. At least 60 per cent polling would be recorded during corporation elections. But some people, especially those who reside in apartment complexes, would not come out to vote on that day,” he added.

‘Spread the Value of Voting’

BBMP Commissioner Kumar Naik told Express that said they will take help from NGOs and resident welfare association members to campaign and spread the value of voting. “With the help of the Information Department, we will give publicity publishing advertisements and other means. We want more people to come out and vote,” he said.

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