Bihar Assembly Election 2020: Few first-time voters stepped out to vote in second phase

Assembly constituencies in Patna, especially urban seats, revealed worrying voting trends in the second phase of the ongoing Bihar elections.

A large section of first-time voters, who are above 18 years of age, showed apathy during the second phase of the voting on Tuesday (November 3).

Though the population of youth in the nine Patna assembly constituencies is estimated at 344,370, only 13,423 names of fresh eligible electorate figured in the voters’ list.

The corresponding figure of registered first-time voters in Bihar is 1.11 million, which was 2.4 million in 2015.

Women voters in Patna’s urban constituencies were also aloof.

For instance, in the Bankipur assembly constituency, which is located in the heart of the state capital and comprises neighbourhoods such as Sabzibagh, Kadam Kuan, Nala Road, Frazer Road and Thakurbari Road, the turnout of women voters was 58,822.

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In Kumrahar constituency, which includes neighbourhoods such as Rajendra Nagar and Kankarbagh, another 65,493 women voted.

A Patna district administration official weighed in on the trend.

“Several efforts were made to create awareness among first-time electorate to get their names registered in the voters’ list. Special camps were arranged for them and youth icons even visited universities to create awareness and motivate them. The fresh voters’ tally remained well below 50,000, despite our persistent efforts,” said the official, who did not wish to be quoted.

The unprecedented coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic amid which the first assembly elections in the country is being held is another reason that is attributed to poor turnout in Patna.

“A prolonged lockdown restriction, which was enforced to keep the viral infection at bay, also contributed to a low turnout,” he added.

“Despite all Covid-19-related precautionary measures, women turnout was low in several urban constituencies in Patna. For instance, we had created Vasandhura polling booth, where voters were given saplings for free before they were allowed to vote,” the official said.

Pramod Kumar Poddar, a former in-charge of the department of women studies at Patna University, said poor participation of urban women voters does not augur well. “It’s a matter of research and the trend needs to be reviewed,” he said.

Usha Jha, president of the Bihar Mahila Udyog Sangh, said the young generation’s apathy was surprising. “It is perplexing that over 13,000 registered first-time voters in Patna, even though their population is far higher,” she said.

She said several families discourage their children to take part in politics, which, perhaps, led to the first-time voters’ disenchantment.

Patna district comprises nine assembly constituencies such as Kumrahar, Bankipur, Patna Sahib, Digha, Fatuha, Bakhtiarpur, Danapur, Phulwari and Maner.

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