• Saturday, May 18, 2024


Four Indian states to vote on April 26 amid heatwave; experts worried over turnout

Eighty-nine constituencies in 13 states and Union Territories of India will vote in the second phase in which fate of more than 1,200 candidates will be sealed.

Indian voters sit holding umbrellas to protect themselves from heat as they queue to cast their vote at a polling station during India’s general elections. (Photo by BIJU BORO/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

GENERAL elections in India kicked off on April 19 when nearly 64 per cent of more than 166 million eligible voters cast their ballots to decide the fate of over 1,600 candidates in 21 states and Union Territories (UTs) of the country.

The second phase is scheduled for April 26 when 13 states and UTs will vote and there are chances that the voter turnout falling short of the mark registered in the previous polls in 2019, thanks to intense heatwave warning in at least four of the poll-bound states — West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka — on the day.

The first phase also saw a five-point drop in the turnout compared to the 2019 elections and rising temperatures in many parts of the country were seen to be one of the reasons.

It has been seen that higher temperatures impact the voter turnout in Indian elections.

Read: Why India holds its national election in harsh summer?

On April 11, 2019, voter turnout in the national elections in Nawada in the eastern state of Bihar was more than 52 per cent when the temperature was 35 degree Celsius (95 degree Fahrenheit). But it dropped to below 42 per cent in the first phase last week, when the temperature reached 42 degree Celsius (107.6 degree Fahrenheit).

Likewise, in Gaya constituency also in Bihar, the turnout in 2019 was 56 per cent but fell to 52 per cent this time as the mercury soared from 35 to 42 degree Celsius.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has made forecasts of hot days ahead with an increase in the number of days with heatwaves. Top officials of the Election Commission of India, including the chief election commissioner, held a high-level meeting recently to take stock of the weather situation, which was also attended by the chief of the IMD, NDTV reported.

Read: First phase of India election sees nearly 64% of voter turnout

A meeting has also been planned with the chief electoral officers of the poll-bound states to take stock of the necessary facilities, including shades, drinking water and fans at all polling stations during the elections.

Dr Naresh Kumar, senior scientist at the IMD, was quoted as saying by NDTV, “We have issued a red alert for heat in West Bengal for the next three days. Temperatures in Bihar will exceed 40 degrees Celsius. A heatwave is expected in eastern Uttar Pradesh after 24 hours and in western Uttar Pradesh after two days. The temperature will remain hot and humid in Kerala too.”

He said the voters can also take preventive measures against the heatwave. He cited guidelines issued by India’s National Disaster Management Authority to advise people to wear light-coloured and loose-fitting clothes and cover their head with cap or cloth. He also urged them to keep themselves hydrated by drinking a lot of fluids.

Abhinav Gopal, chief development office of Ghaziabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh which is witnessing hot conditions said adequate arrangements for drinking water were being made in every polling booth. He added that shades were being put up to give people some respite from heat and that polling booths were also set up in complexes so that the voters did not have to travel too far.

More than 1,200 candidates in 89 constituencies will contest the election in the second phase.

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