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Dip in number of voters in Kolkata Uttar LS seat matter of concern for poll panel

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Kolkata, Mar 31 (PTI) Amid the Election Commission of India's (ECI) persistent calls to electors to exercise their franchise, the voter turnout at Kolkata Uttar Lok Sabha constituency has been dipping since the past two elections, a senior poll official said on Sunday.

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In both the 2014 and 2019 general elections, nearly 1,000 out of over 1,800 booths in the Kolkata Uttar Lok Sabha constituency reported below-average voter turnout, the official added.

While the turnout in the constituency was 9,55,778 in 2014, the figure came down to 9,50,639 in 2019.

"The decrease in turnout in the constituency started from the 2014 general elections," the ECI official told PTI.

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In the 2019 polls, the voter turnout in the constituency, comprising seven assembly segments — Chowranghee, Entally, Beleghata, Jorasanko, Shyampukur, Maniktala, and Kashipur-Belgachhia —, was slightly over 65 per cent, down from 67 per cent in the 2014 elections.

This declining trend in voter participation was also evident in the last two assembly elections in 2021 and 2016, the official added.

In the 2021 assembly polls, voter turnout in Chowranghee was around 53 per cent compared to over 56 per cent in 2016, the officer said. Similar declines were observed in the other six assembly constituencies.

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"Entally observed a turnout of nearly 68 per cent in 2021, slightly lower than 70.60 per cent recorded in 2016. Beleghata had a turnout of over 63 per cent in 2021, compared to over 66 per cent in 2016," according to EC data.

"Jorasanko saw 50 per cent turnout in 2021, down from 54 per cent in 2016. Shyampukur witnessed a turnout of over 58 per cent in 2021, down from 68 per cent in 2016. Similarly, Maniktala had a turnout of nearly 63 per cent in 2021, compared to nearly 70 per cent in 2016. Kashipur-Belgachhia recorded a turnout of 60 per cent in 2021, lower than 65 per cent in 2016," poll panel data says.

The reasons for this dip, according to the official, include migration of voters to other parts of the city and youth seeking employment opportunities outside the state.

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"Moreover, the addition of new voters in these assembly constituencies is not significant enough to offset the declining turnout," the official added.

Additionally, the gender ratio of voters in some constituencies shows a notable disparity, with fewer female voters compared to male voters.

Tulika Chakraborty, a resident of Shyampukur Street, attributed the decline in voter presence to the departure of families from the area due to the high maintenance costs of old buildings in which they resided.

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She mentioned that many of her neighbours, who had been residing there for generations, had sold their properties and moved away, primarily to be with their children working in other states.

"Most of my neighbours are new. They are non-Bengalis who have purchased portions of the buildings which used to belong to my uncle. They sold their portion in 2011 after finding it tough to bear the maintenance cost. They are now in Maharashtra living with their daughter who works there," Chakraborty said.

To address the situation, the ECI has initiated various awareness campaigns targeted in these areas.

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These include street plays, leaflet distribution, and postering to educate people about their democratic rights through the polling process.

The ECI has also selected 'Tenida,' a beloved fictional character created by writer Narayan Gangopadhyay, as the mascot for the Kolkata Uttar LS constituency to enhance voter awareness.

Recorded messages and dialogues promoting voter rights are being disseminated through the mascot in the seven assembly constituencies, with the aim of raising voter awareness and participation.

"Recorded messages/dialogues regarding the democratic rights of voters are being promoted through our mascot 'Tenida' at the assembly constituencies. The primary idea is to raise the awareness level of voters. Hopefully, this will help," he added. PTI SCH MNB RG

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