Punjab polls: Half of south Malwa’s seats saw over 5% drop in voters turnout
An analysis of the Election Commission of India’s poll data revealed that the voter turnout declined in the Malwa region, which had emerged as a bastion of the Aam Aadmi Party in 2017
Out of 28 assembly constituencies falling under the south Malwa’s seven districts, 50% of seats witnessed more than a 5% drop in the voter turnout as compared to 2017 polls.
An analysis of the Election Commission of India’s poll data revealed that the voter turnout declined in the Malwa region, which had emerged as a bastion of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2017. This time too, the region was seen as the hub of the AAP’s undercurrent.
As per the data, Abohar and Ferozepur City were the only segments in the semi-arid region which saw rise in polling by 3.71% and 1.25%, respectively, in comparison with the state elections held five years ago.
At 7.85%, Nihal Singh Wala seat, which is being represented by Manjit Singh Bilaspur of the AAP, saw the maximum drop in south Malwa. It was followed by Ferozepur Rural, being represented by Congress’ Satkar Kaur Gehri, where 7.33% less votes were polled than last elections.
Politicians from different parties say a fall in poll percentage primarily suggests that the undercurrent of the AAP was just a political hype.
Veteran Akali leader Sikander Singh Maluka, who contested from Rampura Phul in Bathinda, said in the last five years, a sizeable number of rural youth migrated to different countries and did not return to cast votes. “It was a key factor behind the lesser rate of polling in the elections held on Sunday,” he added.
“The AAP wave was just a propaganda on the social media, which is evident from the poll rate that nosedived across the state,” the Akali leader said.
In 2017, the rural seat of Rampura Phul had recorded an impressive 86.35% turnout, while this time, it saw a decline of 6.69% and fell short of 80%-mark of voting.
“In 2017, riding on the wave in support of the AAP, a large number of diaspora came to Punjab to vote. It led to a surge in polling rate in the last elections. There is a tradition in rural Malwa that people living abroad or in other states return to cast votes. But owing to the pandemic, airfares increased manifold and they could not visit their native places,” Maluka said.
The poll data also stated that eight seats from Bathinda, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Mansa, Muktsar witnessed more than 80% polling and predominantly rural seat of Gidderbaha in Muktsar recorded 84.93% turnout — highest in the state. In 2017, Gidderbaha had witnessed 88.79% polling when Congress candidate Amrinder Singh Raja Warring had won the seat.
Punjab Congress campaign committee chairperson Sunil Jakhar said, “A constituency-to-constituency analysis may be required to understand the low turnout, but it confirms that the AAP undercurrent was a bubble.”
“Whenever there is a strong anti-incumbency against the government of the day, poll percentage shoots up. Election data indicates that the people came out in lesser numbers, which means there was no strong resentment against the Congress regime,” said Jakhar, the former state Congress president.
The high-stake seat of Jalalabad in Fazilka, from where SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal was the nominee, witnessed 80% polling, which was 5.84% less than 2017 elections.
Kultar Singh Sandhwa, AAP MLA from Kotkapura, attributed the low turnout to the “loss of people’s faith in conventional parties”. “The voter turnout is in favour of the AAP as electors consolidated against the parties which win elections with the power of money,” said Sandhwa, who contested again from his hometurf.