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Apathy Among Urban Voters

Context

Following the observation of low urban voter turnout in the recently concluded elections to the assemblies of HP and Gujarat, the Election Commission of India (EC) plans to launch a targeted awareness campaign to combat ‘urban apathy.’

Relevance

GS Paaper 2: Constitutional bodiesSalient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

Mains Question

The role of the Election Commission of India in ensuring the purity of the country’s elected legislative bodies has instilled a high level of trust in the minds of Indian citizens. Examine critically. (250 Words)


Shimla to Surat – recent urban apathy trends

  • Major cities in Gujarat and HP not only saw a decrease in voting percentages compared to 2017, but also voted significantly less than the state average.
  • Shimla, for example, had the lowest (turnout) at 62.53% (down by 13% points) compared to the state average of 75.6%, while Rajkot West had a very sharp decline at 10.56%, much lower than the state average of 63.3%.
  • There is a significant difference in voting turnout between rural and urban areas. In Narmada district, Gujarat, for example, the voter turnout gap is as wide as 34.85%. Though the relative participation of urban voters was higher in the first three decades of elections, the gap between urban and rural turnout has widened since the 1980s.

The Reasons for Urban Apathy

  • Poor urban governance: Despite the fact that urban India accounts for 60% of GDP and a disproportionate share of taxes, progress in urban governance has been hampered.
    • This is primarily due to the absence of the power transfer to urban bodies envisaged in the Constitution’s 74th amendment.
  • Less mobilisation and a greater need for political intervention: A greater emphasis on group mobilisation and a greater need for political intervention to compensate for state failure influence rural turnout positively.
    • For example, in the 2020 assembly election in New Delhi, turnout was nearly 20% lower than in some constituencies with large slum clusters.
    • This means that poorer urban Indians still require politicians to improve certain services.
    • Better-off classes, on the other hand, can shield themselves from civic non-governance.
  • Urban apathy is not irrelevant: It is the need for electoral politics to focus more on rural areas that keeps better-off city Indians from voting.
    • Politicians, on the other hand, should recognise the divide between city middle classes and elections.

Actions taken to combat urban apathy:

  • The EC has directed all chief electoral officers to identify such constituencies in order to ensure targeted awareness interventions to increase voting percentage.
  • In 2023, the European Commission (EC) will launch a new version of the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme, which will target young voters in educational institutions as well as voters in corporate offices.
    • SVEEP is the EC’s flagship programme, launched in 2009, for voter education, voter awareness, and voter literacy in India.
    • SVEEP’s primary goal is to help India achieve a truly participatory democracy by encouraging all eligible citizens to vote and make informed decisions during elections.
    • The programme is based on a variety of general and targeted interventions.
  • The poll panel is also expected to launch a series of initiatives ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections to ensure greater transparency and accessibility in the electoral system. o These interventions are designed based on the state’s socioeconomic, cultural, and demographic profile, as well as the history of electoral participation in previous rounds of elections and learning thereof.
  • These include providing better information to voters about a political party’s finances and poll promises.
  • Candidate credentials should consider measures to make voting easier for NRIs and domestic migrants

February 2023
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