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Hyderabad Civic Polls: Fierce Campaign Fails to Enthuse Voters, Analysts Say TRS May Benefit

File photo of Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao.

File photo of Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao.

Covid-19 fear, people travelling during holidays, migrant exodus, voters' list glitches, etc, chief reasons for low numbers.

The high-pitched campaign and emotionally charged war off words in the run-up to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections were not good enough to draw voters to the polling stations.

In the polls held on Tuesday, the turnout was only 46.60 per cent. The voting was carried out amid sporadic disturbances and minor tensions.

In the Old Malakpet division, the CPI (M) symbol was printed on the ballot paper instead of the CPI symbol.

State Election Commission (SEC) officials announced that polling of the division had been suspended and it will be carried out on Thursday.

The counting of votes will be held on December 4. The voter turnout is around 60 to 70 per cent in the general election. But in Hyderabad, the figure remains below 50 per cent.

In the 2002 elections, the turnout was 43.25 per cent, in 2009 it was 42.92 per cent, in 2016 it was 45.27 per cent and the figure was 45.97 per cent this time.

The data shows elderly people participated in the polling with greater enthusiasm while the youths stayed at home.

The voters of bastis and slums exercised their right to vote in larger numbers compared to residents of posh colonies and gated communities.

There are many reasons for the low voter turnout in the polls:

1. Covid-19 effect: People feared the spread of the coronavirus if they gathered in large numbers. Many also moved back to villages and small towns to 'work from home' and pursue online classes to lower expenditure.

2. Consecutive holidays: People from different parts of the country live in Hyderabad. There were four consecutive holidays: second Saturday, Sunday, Kartika Purnami and polling day. Many used the time to travel.

3. Migrant exodus: About 15 lakh migrant labourers had left Hyderabad for their home states during the initial part of the lockdown and only about half of them returned.

4. Problems in voters' list: Many people had applied for a change of address but that did not reflect in the list. In some cases, people from the same household were allotted different polling booths and areas.

Moreover, many felt that if they cast their vote in Hyderabad their votes will be removed in Andhra Pradesh and so they did not participate in the polling.

"We have four votes in the Kukatpally division. Since I am working for an MNC, my company offered me 'work from home'. I am staying at my native place along with my family and working from here to avoid expenditure and to stay with my parents. I could not come to Hyderabad to cast my vote," said software engineer Putti Srinivas.

Despite the low turnout, all political parties seemed buoyant and hopeful of winning the elections.

Firecrackers were going off at the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office.

Senior BJP leader and union minister Kishan Reddy blamed the Telangana government for the low turnout and expressed confidence of victory.

"The chief minister used the elections for his political benefits. The SEC and TRS colluded and conducted the elections at short notice. The polling percentage is better in Kashmir since it was conducted in high security," he said.

However, analysts say low turnout benefits the ruling party in elections.

"With the high-pitched campaign, definitely there is anxiety in the political parties and the sympathisers of the parties have participated in the polling and neutral voters have not," said senior journalist and analyst Dr Venugopal Reddy.

The BJP has grown stronger in the state but still appears to be lagging behind the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) by some distance. The BJP is likely to get more divisions compared to the 2016 GHMC elections and will be runner-up in many divisions, Reddy added.

He also predicted that Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) will be confined to the old city, where it has a strong hold, and a few pockets in the new city too.

first published:December 02, 2020, 18:33 IST