The political dust raised by the elections to Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC ) has settled down. The voters in Hyderabad have elected the new leadership for the civic body. The city of Hyderabad comes under the elected civic leadership after a gap of several years. The low turn out is however dampening. All the political parties have to do sound soul searching for the appalling apathy among the metropolitan voters. The study of factors behind the low voter turn out would give valuable insights for the civic governance.
There are several reasons for the indifference in the city voter. These range from social factors to technical aspects in the electoral rolls. To begin with, let us analyse some of them. These reasons discussed here are not necessarily given in their order of importance. As usual, there are innumerable mistakes in the electoral rolls and there is a lot of confusion on the Election Day. There is a large scale duplication of names. Members of same family residing under the same roof are assigned different booths. Complaints of deletion of names galore. It is horrifying to note that even in this cyber age, our bureaucracy is unable to provide a reasonably accurate voter list. A country that could send a space vehicle to Moon, couldnot produce an accurate voter list. The election commission failed to visualize the problems before deciding on the dates of polling. Marriages, consecutive holidays resulted in the movement of voters away from the city.
The social factors like depoliticisation, desocialisation that are the characteristics of urban life have also contributed to less voting especially among the affluent sections of society. The trends like consumerism, individualism, economism have adversely affected the participatory culture. Apart from these factors a larger portion of the blame should be taken by the political elite and the leadership of major parties. The lumpenisation of politics kept the educated, affluent, middleclass, highly urban voter from coming to the poling booth. The incremental difference in the political culture of the major contending parties and their candidates leaves Hobson’s choice for the voters there by discouraging them from exercising their franchise. The average voter is unable to appreciate that exercise of voting would bring a difference in their lives. This disconnect between the politics and the daily lives of the people also contributed to the dampening spirit.
It is true that the urban areas record a lower voting compared to the rural voter. Thus, low voting is expected in the city. But, what wonders everyone is that the voting in the municipal elections is lower than that of recent Assembly elections. The voting trends indicate that the voter turn out in the Assembly elections is always higher than the voter turnout in the Loksabha elections. Similarly, the voter turn out in the local bodies elections is always higher than that of Assembly and Parliament elections. Only 44.77 voters exercised their franchise. This is moderately higher than the 43.7 percent turn out during the 2002 Municipal polls.
The government failed to enforce that several private companies especially the Information Technology companies did not declare holiday for their employees.
The campaign of the several parties mainly concentrated on the political aspects. Though the civic issues figured in the manifestos and the campaign speeches of the leaders, a serious efforts lacked in identifying the civic problems and showing solutions to them. This is especially true with the parties claiming power in the GHMC. The civic polls have become yet an another Assembly or Loksabha poll. Therefore the voters who have recently pronounced their verdict in these polls perhaps did not find it necessary to reiterate their preference. The time has come for the political system and the civil society to undertake a serious introspection into the factors that lead to such a indifference towards the democratic exercise.