Pune: Shopping, outstation trips affect turnout

PUNE : Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging people to vote on Monday, many families in Pune have taken advantage of the Diwali holidays coinciding with polling day to go on outstation vacations. Several others spent the day doing their Diwali shopping and missed their chance to cast a vote

On Monday, the narrow lanes of Bhori Ali, Raviwar Peth and Laxmi Road were congested with traffic as pedestrians jostled for space outside shops selling lanterns, diyas and other items ahead of Diwali. For others who had to cast their vote at polling booths in Raviwar Peth, it was a long wait before they could reach the polling centre.

At the polling centre run by Bansilal Agarwal Trust at Agrasen Bhavan, some of the polling staff admitted there was a trickle in the morning hours. By 3 pm, the turnout in the Kasba assembly segment was 26.33 per cent, the lowest among all 21 constituencies in Pune district. By 5 pm, it had risen to 36.08 per cent.

Many people used the holiday to do their Diwali shopping, shopkeepers said. “It was raining on Saturday and Sunday but today was relatively dry. So I decided to go to Laxmi Road,” said Meena from Bibvewadi.

For Prescilla Vaz, it was a hectic weekend as she was entertaining several guests. “My voting centre is at Ramtekdi in the Hadapsar assembly segment. I still went to vote at 5.30 pm,” she said.

However, in the Chinchwad assembly segment, people carrying backpacks and tiffins rushing to work, a usual sight in this area which has a large population of IT professionals, were missing at a majority of the polling centres in Pimple Saudagar, Wakad, parts of Pimple Gurav and Sangvi.

Most of the IT professionals living in these localities were absent from polling on Monday. Many families in these localities have gone on outstation holidays since the weekend started.

“My wife and I managed to get leave from work. Since the Diwali vacation of my three children also started, we made plans for a week-long outing to Konkan,” said Kishor Patil, an IT professional who lives in Pimple Saudagar. The Dogras, who live in Wakad, preferred to head to Goa on Friday.

“My family will be hosting guests during Diwali and it will be a hectic period. So, we decided to go on a mini-vacation and managed to get offs from work on Friday and Monday,” said Pritam Dogra, another IT professional who has been living in the city for more than four years now.

But the city Congress unit has blamed the administration for the low turnout and not being able to woo people to vote in large numbers. “Several people have gone out for the weekend or missed their chance to vote due to their time taken by making Diwali purchases,” said Ramesh Iyer, spokesperson of the city Congress unit.