The Telegraph
Monday , January 13 , 2014
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Elites skirt civic polls
Outskirts outsmart upscale areas

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 12: Areas on the city outskirts saw a higher turnout of voters than upscale areas housing the VIPs and the “educated people” in the recently-concluded civic polls here.

Residents of Shampur, Pahal, Dumduma, Jadupur, Kapilaprasad and Sundarpada on the city outskirts took part in the poll in large numbers. Ward No. 4, which consists of Pahal, Johal, Nakhara, Haridaspur, Nuapatna, Banguari, Naharkanta, Hanspal, Jaypur and Rudrapur, saw 77.33 per cent voter turnout, which was the highest in the city this time. Here, the BJD candidate won against the sitting BJP councillor’s wife.

However, ward No. 25, which includes IRC village N-1, N-2, N-3, N-4, RBI Colony and Iskon where VIPS and the highly educated people reside, witnessed the lowest percentage of votes at only 30.8 per cent. Manasirani Sundarray of BJD convincingly defeated her nearest candidate to reoccupy the councillor’s post here.

In the by-poll in May last year, around 19 per cent of voters had turned out to exercise their rights in which Sundarray got elected for the first time. This ward is followed by ward No. 6, which is part of the newly-developed Patia and KIIT areas that house many well-to-do people.

Most of these areas have very poor voter turn out, which is between 30 and 35 per cent, while the city outskirts and slum areas witnessed over 50 per cent votes.

In the recently-concluded Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation polls, 43.29 per cent votes have been polled, which is higher than last election where voter participation was around 38.29 per cent. Out of 6,90,239 voters, 2,98,853 came to cast their votes this time.

Many candidates said that the well-to-do and the educated people as usual preferred to abstain from the voting process here. “These people complain about the problems the most in comparison to slum-dwellers, but when it comes to voting they do not cast their votes. One cannot create awareness among these people in this regard, who otherwise know so much about their rights,” said Saswati Mishra, the newly-elected councillor of ward No. 30, which consists of the elite Saheed Nagar. This ward witnessed 35.2 per cent voter turnout.

The BJD managed to get 48.8 per cent of the votes, followed by Independent candidates in the recent polls. Two national parties — BJP and Congress — performed miserably with the former garnering only 14.8 per cent votes and later could manage only 10.13 per cent votes. Of the 67 wards, the BJD occupied 49 seats while Independents, the BJP, and Congress secured 12, 12 and 2 seats respectively.

Other parties, however, failed to woo the voters and could collect only 0.77 per cent votes. Despite the presence of many slums, parties such as the CPI, the CPI (M) and others claiming to be working for them, failed to give competition to any of the winners.

While the vote percentage remained low from the wards traditionally catering to the votes of the Left parties, state level parties such as Samrudha Odisha (SO), Utkal Bharat (UB), Kalinga Sena and national parties such as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) received less votes than their expectation.

While the CPI(M) and CPI (Marxist Leninist) Red Star got 498 and 274 votes respectively than their other Left counterparts, the SO got 552, the UB got 488, the BSP 26 and the NCP 7. Kalinga Sena got only seven votes.

CPM Bhubaneswar district secretary Suresh Panigrahi said: “The traditional slum pockets have been strategically divided for the advantage of the ruling party during the delimitation process last August. For example, 1,500 votes of ward No. 26 are now with ward No. 20 and 21. Secondly, the Left and other small parties never received the draft electoral roll before the election process. We are yet to even get information on the votes polled for our candidates.”

“We have received the votes of hardcore supporters and cadres. But as the spending-level was very high with the BJD and wealthy candidates, the Left parties could not take the advantage from the voters,’’ said another senior CPM member.

However, a Left supporter added that when 43 per cent voters went to cast their votes and 57 per cent abstained, the minority voting for the majority democratic process can never result in a healthy civic administration.