Yet again, on the day after the city polls of March 28th, both State Election Commission (SEC) officials and the city’s dailies are crying hoarse about low turnout in Bengaluru. Official estimates are reportedly putting the number at around 45 percent and several dailies today have sermonised in their editorials that Bangaloreans did not take this election seriously enough.
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Really? Let’s look at the numbers again. According to the SEC, the total number of voters for all 198 wards of Bengaluru is 69.7 lakhs. Let’s stop right there. Is this number even possible?
Even after amalgamation of towns and panchayats into ‘Bruhat’ Bengaluru, if you reasonably estimate the population to be around 80 lakhs (8 million) is it possible that the size of the voter list (people of age greater than 18, and registered) is nearly 70 lakhs?
So why are our voter rolls so large? Any opinion-making on turnout must start with the nagging but the least-talked about reality is that the city’s electoral rolls are bloated.
What is bloating? Bloated rolls happen when over the years, deletions of outdated, bogus and incorrect entries are never completely done. People may move residence and not file a deletion form (common). More likely for Bengaluru’s rolls at least, many mistakes are made while creating new entries. People who do not find their name on the rolls get themselves registered again and again.
Just last month, the worrisome state of our rolls was further exposed by the citizens group Smart Vote. Following that, Citizen Matters staff journalist Vaishnavi Vittal exposed the shambles in her detailed interview with the chief electoral officer. See that here.
It is not that deletions are never done. Every time there is a roll revision, there are deletions. Just before this election, the SEC says 2285 deletions were done. This was for 57 wards. For the other 142 wards, no deletions were done.
So what is the real electorate size (i.e. valid registered voter list size) for Bangalore? No one knows, not even the SEC. What then, could have been the real turnout then on March 28th?
There is one back-of-the-envelope way to get a rough estimate. Assume for the moment, that the 45 per cent of 69.7 lakh voters did indeed turnout. This means around 31.4 lakh Bangaloreans voted on March 28th.
Now assume that at least 30 percent of the rolls are bogus entries requiring deletion. This means that the valid electorate size for Bangalore is only 48.8 lakhs voters, not 69.7. Using 48.8 lakhs as the base, turnout on Sunday was a high 64 per cent.
Claims made by people with experience in this matter suggest that the extent of bloating of the rolls may even be upto 40 per cent. Even at 20 per cent bloat, Bengaluru’s adjusted-turnout on Sunday comes to 55 per cent. Those are high numbers and less depressing than the 45 percent being dished out as if only to spite Bangaloreans.
In sum, 45 per cent turnout is very likely an underestimate. The least the SEC must do is admit to the problem and then put out the numbers. ⊕