Around 62% voting was recorded for the first round of voting in 58 assembly seats in 11 districts in western Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, about three percentage points less than the turnout in 2017 in the same constituencies, according to Election Commission data.
While Agra witnessed 60.3% and Mathura 63.2%, Bulandshahr, Meerut and Hapur witnessed 60.5%, 60.9%, and 60.5% respectively. Kairana though show 75.1% turnout this time, while Thana Bhawan witnessed 65.6% and Shamli city saw 67.5%. Chaprauli in Baghpat witnessed only 57.1% voter turnout, but Baghpat city witnessed as much as 64.6% polling. Atrauli in Aligarh though saw the lowest turnout with just 57.2% voter turning up to vote.
The voting was higher in number in Muslim-dominated constituencies of Kairana, Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Bulandshahr and lesser in urban areas such as Mathura, Agra, Noida, Gautam Budh Nagar. Difference in voting in Muslim and non-Muslim dominated areas was up to five percentage points in some areas, initial election commission data shows. Also, voting in rural areas was higher than in towns and cities. Around 2.68 crore voters exercised their franchise.
But, this data has interesting implications.
First, the high turnout in Muslim dominated areas is not a good news for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, even through these areas traditionally vote in higher numbers, compared to urban areas. It is a well known fact that Muslims vote against the BJP and primarily for a candidate who can defeat the saffron party.
In case of western UP, all trends and opinion polls shows Muslims are backing the Samajwadi-Party-led alliance. Muslims in tandem with Jats could influence the election in at-least 20 of these 58 assembly constituencies and high turnout is a good sign for alliance. Also, good voting in rural areas is not a good sign for the BJP as there is widespread resentment against the ruling party’s treatment of farmers during year-long farmer protests.
Secondly, lower voting in urban areas shows voter disdain with political parties and also that the BJP was not able to mobilise its sympathisers to voters. There were reports that many BJP voters decided to abstain as they were not happy with the party policies. This can lead to bad news for several BJP candidates such as defence minister Rajnath’s son Pankaj Singh and UP minister Shrikant Sharma contesting from Noida and Mathura respectively. Sharma, locals in Mathura say, is finding the electoral wind difficult to handle.
Third, is that the aura of prime minister Narendra Modi may not have worked in the western Uttar Pradesh as it did in the past. People were speaking strongly against policies of the central and the state government and the BJP is finding it hard to provide them answers.
The first round of polling in western UP has set the ball rolling for the second round on February 14 by when voting for more than one-fourth of the seats in the 403-member assembly will have taken place. Votes for UP will be counted on March 10 along with Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur.