Political parties in elections 2024 have a common challenger: heat

The summer heat of tropical India has turned the voting process more arduous, with many voters having to endure long waits in sweltering conditions

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Bhupendra Chaubey
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Bhupendra Chaubey of The Squirrels is covering the Lok Sabha elections of 2024 in Purvanchal or eastern Uttar Pradesh amidst the sweltering heat of May. Extreme heat across almost the whole of the country has made voting in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections extremely difficult.

1. Phase 1 (April 19): The first phase of the elections kicked off with a voter turnout of 66.1%. 

2. Phase 2 (April 24): The second phase saw a slightly lower turnout of 65.7%. 

3. Phase 3 (May 1): The third phase had a turnout of 66.7%. 

4. Phase 4 (May 8): The fourth phase saw a significant increase in voter turnout, with 69.15% of eligible voters casting their ballots. 

5. Phase 5 (May 13): The fifth phase had a lower turnout of 62.2%. 

6. Phase 6 (May 25): The sixth phase saw a turnout of 63.37%. 

7. Phase 7 (May 29): The final phase of the elections is currently underway.

You've heard and read by now that the voter turnout in the 2024 elections has been consistently low.

Impact of heat on elections 2024

Between April 19 and June 1, large parts of the country experienced extreme heat waves and above-normal temperatures in many regions.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) reported that several parts of the country, like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Telangana, experienced temperatures soaring up to 47-48 degrees Celsius. This intense heat posed significant health risks to voters and election personnel alike. 

To address these challenges, the Election Commission of India (ECI) set up a task force comprising officials from various agencies, including the IMD and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). This task force was responsible for monitoring weather conditions and coordinating efforts to ensure voter safety. Measures included providing shaded areas, drinking water, and medical facilities at polling stations.

However, this did not push up voter attendance.

The extreme heat also led to advisories urging voters to carry wet towels and stay hydrated. Polling stations were equipped with oral rehydration salts (ORS) and medical kits to handle cases of heatstroke. Additionally, the ECI advised against bringing children to polling stations to avoid exposure to the harsh weather (India Today).

Despite these precautions, the high temperatures undoubtedly made the voting process more arduous, with many voters having to endure long waits in sweltering conditions. The ECI's proactive steps, while helpful, highlighted the significant impact of climate on electoral processes and the need for comprehensive planning to ensure voter safety and participation under such extreme conditions.

Ending on a positive note, the final phase is expected to see clear skies and should not significantly impact voter turnout.