Voting Concludes In Goa, Uttarakhand, And 113 Seats In Uttar Pradesh
The original version of the article was published on 16th February in “The Daily Guardian”
Elections for the 113 Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh (Phase 1 and 2), 70 seats in Uttarakhand, and 40 seats in Goa concluded on 14 February 2022. The overall voter turnout in Uttar Pradesh (average) has been 63.48 per cent, slightly higher than the 61.04 per cent average in 2017. On the other hand, Uttarakhand recorded an overall voter turnout of 64.29 per cent, lower than the 64.72 per cent turnout recorded in 2017. Goa, which historically records higher voter turnout rates when compared to other states, recorded a voter turnout of 79.16 per cent, lower than the 81.21 per cent recorded in 2017. So far elections in all states have been peaceful, barring reports of a few faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which have been replaced, however, delaying polling in a few booths. Elections for other states, including Punjab and Manipur and the remaining 290 seats in Uttar Pradesh are scheduled to take place in the next few weeks, and the results of the elections will be declared on 10 March 2022. Let us have a look at the seats which went to the polls in the past week, assess voter turnouts and past party performance and competition in those seats.
Phase 1 and 2 of Uttar Pradesh Elections
About 113 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh have already cast their votes in Phase 1 and 2 of the Assembly elections. Polling for the second phase of the elections ended on 14 February, and the voter turnout for the same was around 64.42 per cent. The voting for phase 1 on the other hand ended on 10 February, and the voter turnout was marginally higher at 62.4 per cent. In the 2017 Assembly elections, the BJP secured 53 out of the 58 constituencies which went to the polls in this phase, while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) secured two seats and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) secured one of the remaining seats. The majority of the seats in the first phase are in the Jat-dominated belt of western UP, home to the farmers who had participated in the active protest against the BJP-led central government’s three farm laws, which have since been withdrawn. Jats account for about 17–18 per cent of the population in this region, and the SP has tied up with the RLD hoping to improve upon its tally from 2017 by retrieving its traditional Jat-Muslim vote bank. Political experts predict that the BJP will face very tough competition from the SP-RLD combine in this phase, and in many ways, the outcome of the first phase, and the BJP’s performance in the Jat belt could influence the overall outcome of the elections.
The second phase of the UP elections, which covers 55 constituencies across nine districts is also likely to be a challenge for the BJP. Most of the Assembly segments going to poll in the second phase have a higher concentration of Muslim voters, who have traditionally supported the SP, and shy away from supporting the BJP. As per the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) survey data, about 45 per cent of Muslims voted for the SP in 2017. The areas which went to poll in the second phase have a sizeable Muslim population, which are influenced by religious leaders of the Barelvi and Deoband sects and have been strongholds of the SP. In 2017, out of the 55 seats which went to poll in the second phase, the BJP won 38 seats. Both the first and second phases of the election could prove to be one of the toughest challenges for the BJP in UP. Polling in both phases was largely peaceful, barring sporadic reports of a few malfunctioning EVMs. Additionally, in light of the easing Coronavirus situation in the country, the Election Commission also relaxed a few curbs on campaigning, including permitting rallies and meetings (with 50 per cent capacity) and permitting padyatras.
Uttarakhand: Overall 64.29 per cent Voter Turnout
The single-phase Assembly polls in Uttarakhand concluded on 14 February for all 70 seats, with a voter turnout of around 64.29 per cent (till 6 PM) across all districts. The voter turnout was lower than the 65.64 per cent recorded in the 2017 Assembly elections. The highest voter turnout was recorded in Haridwar at 74.06 per cent and the lowest was in Almora district at 52.82 per cent. Traditionally, polls in Uttarakhand have been a two-party battle between the Indian National Congress (INC) and the BJP; however, this year, the state is witnessing a multi-cornered contest with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) contesting in the state. Although the BJP swept the state in 2017, winning 57 out of the 70 seats with a vote share of 47 per cent, the state has had very strong anti-incumbency as it has turned up alternative governments every five years since the first election was held in 2002. Incumbent Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami contested again from Khatima, while Congress’ Harish Rawat, contested from Lalkuan.
In an attempt to draw up voter support, the BJP has announced that it will bring in Uniform Civil Code (UCC) legislation applicable for the whole state, while the Congress has relied on its “Chaar Dhaam, Char Kaam” development poll plank. The Election Commission also set up around 100 all-women booths called ‘Sakhi’ or ‘pink booth’ in each state to encourage women in the voting process. Overall, the single-phase polling in the state was peaceful, with some reports of delayed polling in booths due to faulty EVMs.
79.16 per cent Voter Turnout In Goa
Polling for the 40 Assembly seats in Goa concluded on February 14, with a high voter turnout of 79.16 per cent. Although the state historically has a higher voter turnout, this election saw a minor drop in turnout as compared to 2017 polls. The highest voter turnout was recorded in Sanquelim constituency with 89.64 per cent, while the lowest was recorded in Benaulim (70.2 per cent). Shaken up by the large-scale defections from the party, prior to the polls, on 11 February, the Congress also made its candidates sign affidavits and take an oath of loyalty to the party in the presence of its senior leader Rahul Gandhi.
The INC, which won the highest number of seats in the state in 2017, lost to a post-poll alliance stitched by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Former Defense Minister, Manohar Parrikar, was sworn in as the Chief Minister for the fourth time in the state. Post a series of large scale defections and the death of key Ministers, before the 2022 polls happened, the BJP was the party with the highest number of seats, while the INC has only two MLAs in the 40-member house. The INC is fighting to retain importance in the state, while the BJP is fighting anti-incumbency sentiments, along with public dissatisfaction with its handling of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAP, which failed to win a single seat in the 2017 elections has also been making waves in the state, promising to bring about the “Delhi model” to the coastal state.
While overall the elections in the state were peaceful, several instances of tension were recorded across constituencies and polling booths. In Benaulim, reports emerged of supporters of incumbent MLA Churchill Alemao attempting to corner the AAP candidate Venzy Viegas. Reports of a verbal brawl between Congress and BJP workers also emerged from a polling booth in Vasco, prompting a police response. Allegations of money distribution by a candidate also emerged from Rumdamol. The state’s Chief Electoral Officer also said that 14 EVMs and eight ballots were replaced during the polling.
Shreya Maskara /New Delhi
Contributing reports by Damini Mehta, Junior Research Associate at Polstrat and Aakarshan Singh, Abhinav Nain, Akhil Chirravuri, and Nakshatra Verma, Interns at Polstrat.
From Polstrat, a non-partisan political consultancy which aims to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach.