Activists say that they are seeing higher on ground engagement and awareness about issues in Bengaluru voters this time around.

Citizens more aware engaged Activists optimistic about high voter turnout in Bluru Image for representation/PTI
Karnataka Elections Karnataka 2018 Wednesday, April 25, 2018 - 18:52

Bengaluru does not have the best record when it comes to voter turnout. In fact, Bengaluru Urban saw the lowest turnout in Karnataka in the last Assembly election – 53.8%, compared to the state average of 70% in 2013. In 2008, the numbers of Bengaluru Rural were even lower (45%).

This time however, experts and activists are optimistic and believe that more Bengalureans will turn up to vote at the state Assembly Elections, which are a little over a fortnight away. What’s more – the number of registered voters has reportedly increased by 9%, and in Bengaluru, by 24% compared to 2013.

“We expect the voter turnout to be high and see a lot of engagement and interest on ground. People have been interested in knowing who the candidates are and registering to vote,” observes Whitefield Rising member Zibi Jamal.

She also concludes that voter apathy is a myth.

“There have been concerted efforts to disenfranchise voters from Mahadevapura,” she says.

Zibi is referring to a large-scale rejection of online applications for voter registration by Mahadevpura residents in late last year. Over 8,000 out of 13,395 applications were found to be rejected when the Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) visited the assistant revenue officer's office in Ramagondanahalli in Mahadevapura.

These irregularities in the voter registration process had prompted Whitefield Rising to file a PIL in the Karnataka High Court in November 2017.

While the rejected applications are being reconsidered now. Zibi says that the large number of people willing to register for voting is a concrete proof that citizens of Bengaluru are not apathetic and desire to participate in the democratic process.

Tara Krishnawamy, an activist with Citizens for Bengaluru, also believes that the voter turnout this time around is going to be higher because city residents want to have an active say in the governance.

Citizens for Bengaluru has also taken numerous initiatives in order to make sure that voters know the MLA they are voting for. “We can get more people to vote by making the elections as a process itself exciting,” Tara says. “The Beku Beda Santhe manifesto has also played a pivotal role in helping people participate in governance of the city.”

Beku Beda Santhe first came into the limelight during the protests against the steel flyover project. It is an initiative which brings together city residents and activists to speak up about their demands from the elected bodies. The manifesto was released in December 2017, and showed that better roads and transport facilities were among the top demands of Bengaluru residents.

“The citizens feel they have a stake in the issues… This is the reason people have the drive to vote during elections this time around so that they have leaders who can address them,” Tara says.

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