Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, April 17:
Odisha’s capital city has done it yet again.
Bhubaneswar, with perhaps the most literate and politically aware population in the state, has earned the dubious distinction as the place where the voting percentage was the lowest today.
Considering the fact that the overall average polling in the second phase of elections today was 70%, the capital city‘s less than 40% shows the gross apathy of this supposedly elite crowd towards the democratic process. The city dragged down the polling percentage in the Khurda district to which it belongs to just 45%.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Mona Sharma rued the fact that despite the massive campaigns and awareness programmes undertaken by the commission and Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC), the city chose to stay away from the polling booths today.
Interestingly, the rural areas of Khurda district reported above 60% polling. Even Assembly segments like Khurda, Jayadev and Jatni, which are located at the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, recorded more than 60% polling.
The city had recorded a turnout of only around 42 per cent in the BMC elections earlier this year. The polling percentage this time, however, has witnessed a marginal improvement over the 2009 polls when only 38.29 per cent of the capital’s citizens had cast their votes.
The voter turnout In Bhubaneswar (Central) was just 33.74% in 2009, while the figures for Bhubaneswar (North) and Ekamra Bhubaneswar were only marginally better at at 35.07% and 37.19%.
Most of people, who did cast their votes were predictably from the slums that dot the city. It may be noted that the 436 slums in Bhubaneswar account for close to 30 per cent of the total voters.
However, some people attributed the low turn-out this time to the decision of the commission to stop distribution of voter slips (chirkuti) by political parties on the grounds that it could influence the voters. Long used to getting the ‘chirkuti’ containing their booth and serial number in the voters’ list, the people of the city were seen moving from pillar to post to check their names in the voting list.
The Commission had engaged several government workers including Anganawadi workers and Asha workers for the distribution of the slips, but very few of them actually turned up at the doors of the voters leading to confusion all around.
Besides, the website of Chief Electoral Office (CEO) did not work for the day following the huge number of traffic that it received to check the booth numbers of the voters.
“It took me about one and half hour to get my name in the voter list at a booth located in a school near my house. Many people have did not get their slips forcing them to move around the booth,” said Bijay Das.
The city also wore a deserted look today as most of the shops remained closed and the vehicles remained off the roads.
While the vote day was off day, tomorrow is Good Friday and the day after tomorrow is a Sunday. So, the people may have preferred to enjoy the holidays instead of casting their votes.