Shimla: While Himachal Pradesh registered a record high voter turnout of 75 percent in the state assembly polls on Sunday, polling in this state capital was less than 60 percent – a stark difference attributed to urban lethargy and dual votes of the electorate.
Seat of power since the days of the British Raj, the democratic process has failed to strike its roots firmly in Shimla, which has a population of 54,720 and recorded the lowest polling in the state. This, despite extensive awareness drives and sunny weather.
Poll officials said on Monday that the lowest voter turnout in the assembly elections Sunday was 58.77 percent recorded in Shimla (urban) constituency, whereas the highest percentage was 94.80 percent in Nalagarh in Solan district.
The overall voting was around 75 percent – a record high – for the 69 assembly constituencies, officials said.
Neeraj Kumar, officer on special duty with the state election department, told IANS this time the poll percentage was the highest in Shimla in the past 19 years. The last highest turnout was 60.25 percent in the 1993 assembly elections.
He said this time the voter turnout was higher by 12.02 percent than 47.15 percent in 2007.
In the 2003 assembly elections, polling percentage was 46.14 percent, while it was 43.12 percent in 1998.
According to election department archives, Shimla saw the highest polling in 1982 (66.01 percent) and the lowest in 1957 (30.44 percent) since the first assembly elections in 1951.
Poll officials attribute voter apathy and dual voter registration for the trend.
“Shimla has a problem of dual voter registration. Most of the people settled here don’t actually belong to this place. They are here either for earning livelihood or for higher education. On the day of voting, they normally return to their native places (in the state). This is the main reason for low voter turnout,” Additional Chief Electoral Officer B.L. Negi said.
He said before the assembly polls, the election department had identified more than 14,000 people who were enrolled at two places simultaneously and cancelled their voter card here.
Election officials said the problem of poor turnout is more in areas dominated by the rich and educated.
“Educated people don’t want to come out and vote. It’s sad,” an official said.
MR Kaundal, retired government employee who is settled in Shimla since 1945, said the town supports a large population of ‘babus’ (bureaucrats), both serving and retired, and businessmen, who prefer to go on holiday or stay at home rather than participate in the election process.