Gujarat recorded an all-time high voter turnout in 52 years on 23 April, with 64.11 per cent voting registered across 26 seats. On Tuesday, Gujarat overtook its 1967 voter turnout of 63.77 per cent and the 2014 voter turnout of 63.5 per cent.
The tribal belts led the charge followed by rural voters. Although the urban voters came out in large numbers, the turnout in four out of the six Lok Sabha seats was less than the the 2014 election turnout.
Incidentally, both the BJP and the Congress are over the moon with the record-breaking turnout as both sides speculate that voters favoured their party. However, political analysts are shying away from jumping to conclusions.
Valsad, The Bellwether Seat
Since 1971, the party that wins Valsad forms the government in New Delhi. The Lok Sabha seat has never bucked the trend, as the BJP won Valsad in 2014 and formed the NDA government, whereas the Congress won the seat in 2004 and 2009 to form the UPA Government.
Incidentally, Valsad also registered the highest turnout in the state with 75.21 per cent vote, higher than the 2014 turnout. In fact, the seat saw 52.28 and 56.11 per cent turnout respectively in 2004 and 2009 general elections, which shot up by a staggering 18 percent in 2014 (to 74.09 per cent) when Modi Wave had gripped the nation. The Congress could win Valsad, but does it mean they will also form the government at the centre?
Valsad town went to the BJP in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly Elections, while the Congress managed to win two of the seven assembly constituencies falling under Valsad Lok Sabha Seat.
Bardoli (73.57) came second followed by Chhota Udaipur (73.44) and Bharuch (73.21) and Vadodara (67.86). Vadodara is an urban seat while the other four fall in the tribal belt.
Meanwhile Dediapada Assembly Constituency that falls under Bharuch recorded the highest voting at 85.39 per cent. In fact the tribal belt of the state exceeded all expectations with a turnout higher than their rural and urban counterparts.
Low Turnout in Saurashtra And Kutch
Amreli in Saurashtra region recorded the lowest turnout at 55.75 per cent. It was followed by Pobandar (56.79), Surendranagar (57.85), Kutch (58.22) and Bhavnagar (58.41).
Rapar (Kutch LS Seat) recorded the lowest turnout of 47.37 percent. Barring these five seats in the Kutch and Saurashtra regions, all other seats across Gujarat recorded a turnout of 60 per cent or above.
Trends indicate that turnout in Saurashtra and Kutch usually remains on the lower side. Speculation is rife that farmer distress has impacted the turnout this year just as it impacted the 2017 assembly poll results. In 2017 elections the BJP were routed from the region, winning only 23 out of 54 assembly seats.
In fact, Amreli, in all likelihood, will be a closely contested affair between BJP’s two-time MP Naran Kachadia and Congress MLA from Amreli, Paresh Dhanani, as the seat has recorded the lowest voter turnout in the state.
Who has the Upper Hand?
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, speaking after casting his vote on Tuesday, had said the high turnout will favour the BJP. "The voting percentage is almost same or even higher than 2014, which indicates there is a wave in favour of Modi," he said.
On the other hand, senior Congress leader Bharat Solanki had said that his party, which had drawn a blank in 2014, will do well this time. "The people of Gujarat have come out in large numbers to vote out the BJP," he said.
However, political analysts are tight-lipped about the outcome of the elections based on the turnout. The Quint spoke with former journalist and professor at HK Arts College in Ahmedabad Hemantkumar Shah, who said that its higher turnout doesn’t imply a BJP victory.
“The 2017 Assembly polls saw a 68.41 per cent turnout – lesser than 71.32 recorded in 2012 elections – and it favoured the Congress more than the BJP. The Grand Old Party won a huge chunk of seats in the rural belt in 2017 due to the agrarian crisis in Gujarat. That effect can carry forward to this poll as well. Besides, Gujarat recorded a high turnout due to rural voters not urban voters.”Professor Hemantkumar Shah, HK Arts College, Ahmedabad
Voters of Saurashtra Deterred by Poaching of MLAs
The agrarian crisis was quite severe in the Saurashtra belt, where the turnout was quite low. Professor Shah blames the low turnout on the incessant poaching of Congress MLAs by the BJP in the last couple of months.
“How can the voters trust any political leader if they keep hopping from one party to another. Historically voting in Saurashtra and Kutch has always been on the low side. Although the voters here are predominantly farmers reeling under the agrarian crisis, they would ideally refrain from voting because they don’t trust their political masters.”Professor Hemantkumar Shah, HK Arts College, Ahmedabad
However, Shah believes that the Congress holds the edge in North Gujarat (Patan and Sabarkantha) and in Saurashtra (Porbandar, Amreli and Junagadh) along with a few seats in central and south Gujarat (Anand, Kheda, Panchmahal, Dahod, Chota Udepur and Bardoli).
“The BJP will clinch the municipal corporation seats – Gandhinagar, Rajkot, Vadodara, the two seats in Ahmedabad and Surat, and even Bhavnagar. In these seats the nationalistic rhetoric always appeals to the voters,” Shah added.
According to Shah, the urban voters have not seen the ugly side of demonetisation and GST, as much as voters spread across 159 municipalities in the state and the villages around them have.
(With inputs from PTI)