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Meghalaya votes

 As of writing this editorial, voting in Meghalaya hovered at 67%. The final tally may take the figure slightly higher but not to the tally of the 2013 election which stood at 88.82%. Several reasons account for this low voter turnout. Firstly, in several polling booths across the state there were initial glitches with the EVMs.  Polling in most booths could not start at 7 am the scheduled time but started at 8.00 or 8.15 am by which time the EVMs had started functioning. Reports coming in from the rural areas suggest that people who had queued up to vote went away after standing in the queue for hours and not being able to vote. The second reason could be a lack of interest in voting itself as it has apparently not met people’s aspirations. Third, the choice of candidates left many constituents disappointed.

Be that as it may, this election might spring some surprises and political parties that were cocksure that they fielded the right candidate might just land a slap on their faces. Those assessed as “winnable” candidates might not cross the finishing line. Fact is no one has as yet been able to scientifically assess voter behaviour. The public mood swings like a pendulum gone crazy until the very last moment. Surprisingly, most voters spoken to in the long queues at different polling stations did not even know the names of all the candidates from their respective constituencies or the parties they contested from. They had decided who to vote for and only knew the name and symbol of that candidate. They did not even bother to know the antecedents of the other candidates. That’s an informed electorate for you! The decision to vote a certain candidate is weighed against many factors personal and political. Most voters said they voted a candidate who could be trusted to stand by them at their hour of need; who is approachable and helpful. These are the three defining characteristics listed out by most voters. They did not bother much about party or ideology. And this has been the reason for Meghalaya’s fractured mandate in all elections, after 1972.

Will the low voter turnout benefit any political party? Well, March 3, is not very far away and until them the curtains close on the election extravaganza.   

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