Such a shame that Bengaluru’s young voters gave the polls a go-by

The tentative figures of voter turnout in Karnataka indicate that there is no significant shift in voting figures as compared to the last Assembly elections. Trends also indicate that the Bengaluru voter has not come out in significantly larger numbers and continues to remain apathetic. 

If one saw the long queues at the airport on Friday evening it was evident that for a lot of people a long weekend break was sadly more important than exercising your franchise to decide and define the winner in ones constituency. That have being said, there is one important dimension to the voter turnout. If there has been a rise in the voter turnout among the poorer segments of society, it would help the Congress. On the other hand, if the upper middle class and the more affluent segment of society were to come out in larger numbers, it would be good news for the BJP.  

The exit polls that came out Saturday evening, also seem to be `hung` as some have suggested that the BJP is ahead while others have placed the Congress in poll position to win. What would be the final result on Tuesday is still anybody’s guess at this stage. 

Two anecdotes that for me, capture the mood in Karnataka. A few days back I had a chance conversation with the person driving me to the airport. When I asked him about his take on the Karnataka  elections, he thought for a moment and then replied. He said he was a big fan of Prime Minister Modi and felt that he was the best news for India in recent times. I thought I was speaking to a prospective BJP voter. He then went on to add, that in spite of being a Modi supporter, he was unsure of whether the state unit of the BJP can translate the aspirations of the people as promised by Prime Minister Modi, into reality. I am not sure how this friend of mine finally voted yesterday, but his dilemma reflected the mood of many common voters. 

On another taxi ride, the driver told me that on Friday night,  he was returning to his village to vote. His family lived in the village while he worked in the city. When asked about his voting intention, he said that if this was a Lok Sabha poll, he would have voted for the BJP. However, as it was a state assembly poll, he was looking at who should lead the government at the state level. He went on to add that his family was benefitting from the welfare schemes of the state government: his wife praised the Anna Bhagya and his school going son was getting his glass of milk because of Ksheera Bhagya. It was getting increasingly clear as to who was likely to get his vote. 

As one waits for the decision locked in the EVM’s to be revealed day after tomorrow,  a few indications of what one may be in store for the state. The Jain University-Lokniti Pre Poll Survey and the Lokniti-ABP news polls, had raised an interesting question. When asking respondents whom they would vote for if the elections were held at the time the survey was held, they were additionally asked whether they are likely to change this preference when voting day come. It is critical to indicate that a larger number of those who said that they would vote for the Congress as compared to the BJP, conceded that they may change their choice on who the would vote for. Has the Congress held on to those who were with the party a week before the election or has the BJP gained in the last week? The last week saw a massive effort by the Prime Minister to garner support for his party. The BJP believes that the Prime Minister's presence and his campaign would make a critical difference for the party. Yet, it could be argued that the Congress has maintained the momentum that it had in the run up to the elections. 

Critical to explain the trends in Karnataka is the belief that different regions of Karnataka are voting differently. While the BJP is believed to be doing well in Mumbai-Karnataka, Coastal Karnataka and Central Karnataka the Congress is ahead in Hyderabad-Karnataka region and Bengaluru region. The Southern Karnataka region holds the key. The JDS was doing well in this region with the Congress trailing. However, some of the exit polls seem to indicate that the Congress has caught up in this region largely on account of the consolidation of the Dalit, Muslim and non-Dominant OBC vote in its favour. The mixed signals that emerged on the BJP possibly cosying up with the JDS, could have also helped the Congress party.

At the end of the day, it is clearly evident that this has been one of the most keenly contested polls. One would need to wait for the counting day to know which of the projections made would prove to be right. This clearly is an election which will continue to be a cliff-hanger till the last vote is counted. 

(Sandeep Shastri is the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Jain University, Bengaluru)

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