The voter turnout in the first two phases of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls may not be encouraging signs for ruling BJP at the Centre. The 2014 voting percentage had shown a clear correlation between high voter turnout and the party’s strong performance. The voting percentage had gone up sharply by 8 per cent, helping BJP walk away with the incremental votes. But those incremental numbers are missing in the 2019 polls. The turnout in the first two phases has remained more or less the same, going up by a measly 0.68 per cent.
Can this outcome then favour the BJP? Ideally not.
First phase voter turnout 69.45
Second phase voter turnout 69.43
In the 2014 elections, the turnout went up in excess of 10 percentage in all states the BJP swept. It went up by 16 per cent in Gujarat, 15 in Rajasthan, 12 in Bihar, 11 in UP, Madhya Pradesh and Assam and 10 per cent in Maharashtra. The results proved a boon and BJP won almost 90 per cent of the seats in these states.
None of these states in 2019 elections has witnessed such a phenomenon.
In politically sensitive Uttar Pradesh, 10 out of 16 seats which went to polls, have witnessed a 1 to 6 per cent dip in turnout. There is no visible signs of anti-incumbency in Odisha and West Bengal as voter turnout number has been flat as compared to previous elections. The BJP is banking heavily on these two states to offset expected losses in the Hindi heartland states. Odisha and Bengal together give 63 seats to the Lok Sabha.
A 2-4 per cent higher voter turnout in the crucial state of Maharashtra (48 Lok Sabha seats) would have worked in BJP’s favour, but here too the turnout has remained flat.
If the mute numbers could be a concern for the saffron party, the dip in voting percentage could also give it sleepless nights.
BJP lost its fortress of Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat after nearly three decades in a bypoll in 20018. Low voter turnout, at just 49 per cent, was attributed as the primary reason for the unexpected loss in a seat represented till then by Yogi Adityanath. Other than combined opposition candidate’s formidable arithmetic, what harmed the BJP the most was perceived lack of enthusiasm among its supporters. The BJP, incidentally, had won the seat with a vote share in excess of 50 per cent in 2014.
The party suffered the same fate in UP’s Phulpur (voter turnout at a meagre 37 per cent) and Bihar Araria (turnout at 50 per cent) in the bypolls.
BJP might well recall the fate the voters had handed out to the Atal Bihar Vajpayee government in the 2004 elections. It was wiped away from power despite the high-octane ‘India shining’ campaign. Its vote share had come down by only 2 per cent from 60 per cent in 2009 to 58 per cent in 2004. The trend is no different this time around. The party could at least hope the correlations prove wrong on May 23 when the EVM machines start flashing election results.