The conclusion can be drawn from the overall turnout and the constituencies that recorded high polling
The 2021 Assembly election has similarities to the 2016 election, going by an analysis of the voter turnout data. The conclusion can be drawn from two factors — the overall turnout figure and the constituencies with a high turnout.
As per the provisional figure of the total turnout released by Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo on Wednesday, the current election’s tally — 72.78% — is marginally lower than the 2016 figure of 74.24%. After reconciliation of data, the State’s average may go up.
In absolute figures, approximately 25 lakh more people voted this time than in 2016, an increase of 4.3%. On Tuesday, around 4.58 crore people exercised their franchise as against about 4.33 crore in 2016.
As for the number of constituencies that have exceeded the State’s average, the tally this time is 137 as against 146 in 2016. Last time, the AIADMK won 88 such seats and the DMK-led front 58.
A perusal of the constituency-wise figures of turnout reveals that Palacode in Dharmapuri district in the western region, from where Higher Education Minister K.P. Anbalagan is seeking re-election, has registered the highest polling of 87.33%, as it did five years ago with 88.57%.
Kulithalai in Karur district in the central zone, which is immediately next to Palacode in turnout this time, was placed third in 2016. Now, it recorded 86.15%, against 88.13% five years ago. Edappadi in Salem district, where Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami is trying his luck once again, finished third now with 85.6%, whereas it came fifth in 2016 with 86.35%. Pennagaram, which was third the last time with 88.04%, stands eighth with 84.19%. Aided by the ruling AIADMK, PMK president G.K. Mani is seeking to re-enter the Assembly from this seat after a gap of 10 years.
As in the case of these four constituencies, many, which had much higher turnout than the State’s average last time, have registered a similar feat this time too. They include Viralimalai in the central region (where Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar is the AIADMK candidate); Tirumangalam (where Revenue Minister R.B. Udhayakumar is the ruling party’s nominee); Tiruchuli (former School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu is the DMK contestant); and Oddanchatram (R. Sakkarapani is the DMK’s candidate), all three in the south; and Katpadi in the north (where former PWD Minister Durai Murugan has been fielded by the DMK).
An interesting aspect of the 2021 election is that constituencies where many of the high-profile candidates belonging to the two principal parties — the DMK and the AIADMK — have been fielded have registered a higher turnout than the State’s average, as happened in the past. For instance, Gobichettipalayam in the west, where School Education Minister K.A. Sengottaiyan is contesting again, and Thirukkoyilur in the north, where former Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudi is seeking re-election, registered a turnout of 82.51% and 76.24% respectively.
However, AIADMK veteran S. Semmalai does not see any one-to-one relationship. He wonders why Kolathur, despite having a prominent leader in DMK president M.K. Stalin as one of the candidates, has not registered an exceptionally high turnout. “It depends upon regions and the capacity of political parties to mobilise people. A high turnout has nothing to do with the high profile of contestants,” he asserts.
Another feature of the 2021 election is that the turnout in a large number of constituencies in the northern and western regions — starting from Thiruporur in Chengalpattu district, on the southern outskirts of Chennai, to Kumarapalayam in Namakkal district — have exceeded the State’s average. Besides, the central and southern districts account for 28 and 17 constituencies respectively.
TNCC vice-president A. Gopanna cites an intense electoral battle as one of the important reasons for the high turnout in many northern and western constituencies. As for the overall turnout, he says this reminds him of what the State recorded during the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
G. Palanithurai, a veteran academic, laments that the expectation of certain sections for cash from parties mainly determines the turnout, which is not a “healthy trend”.
(With inputs from Pon Vasanth B.A.)