The final data on voter turnout made public by the Election Commission on Tuesday revealed that Hindi heartland states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to some extent – have witnessed a uniform fall as compared to the 2019 general elections.

The pattern was not uniform among the southern States. Karnataka actually recorded an increase – from 68.96 per cent in 2019 to 69.56 per cent in 2024 – but Kerala had a sharp fall – from 77.84 per cent to 71.27 per cent. Although heat was a factor everywhere, it was a particularly extreme case in Kerala where five people, including a polling agent, were reported dead during the second phase of voting on April 26. In the eastern parts, Assam and Meghalaya recorded an increase in turnout whereas in Sikkim and West Bengal, the poll percentage actually came down.

According to analyst Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), it would not be entirely correct to infer, as some are doing, that the ruling BJP is the only party to be impacted by low voter turnout.

For instance, the pattern of falling voter numbers was as pronounced in constituencies with a high number of Muslims, whom the BJP does not count as among its voters. In Kairana, the voter turnout came down from 67.45 per cent in 2019 to 62.46 per cent in 2024, in Muzaffarnagar it was down from 68.42 per cent in 2019 to 59.13 per cent in 2024, Moradabad, from 65.46 per cent in 2019 to 62.18 per cent in 2024 and Rampur from 63.19 per cent in 2019 to 55.85 per cent in 2024.

However, social scientist Yogendra Yadav pointed out that the trend of low polling was uniform across urban seats which had recorded high polling in 2014 and 2019.

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“What we are seeing is that polling is coming down from the highs of the last two elections. This is a sort of a normal election where the voter is indifferent. There is a sense of ennui,” he said.

Who gains, who loses

The inference is that since the BJP was the beneficiary of voter euphoria, it would also be a victim of voter apathy. In seats such as Ghaziabad, which the BJP had won by a margin of over 5 lakh votes, the voter turnout has dropped from 55.89 per cent to about 49.88 per cent. In its neighbouring Gautam Buddha Nagar, which the BJP had won in 2019 by over 3 lakh votes, the voter turnout has come down from 60.49 per cent to 53.63 per cent. In Mathura, where Hema Malini of the BJP won by almost 3 lakh votes, the turnout has gone down from 61.08 per cent in 2019 to 49.41 in 2024.

Sanjay Kumar points out that where a keen contest or a new candidate is exciting voters, the turnout has gone up, which implies that the normal pattern in this election is that the voter is not enthused enough to vote. In Barmer (Rajasthan), for instance, there is a lot of interest around independent candidate Ravinder Singh Bhati who has been galvanising the voters with his fiery speeches. The vote count here has gone up from 73.30 per cent in 2019 to 75.93 per cent.

In all, this election is marred by boredom and apathy. In the Hindi heartland, where the BJP was the biggest beneficiary of the immense enthusiasm Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s candidature had generated, a section of the voters are opting to stay at home.