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May 29, 2024, 2:21pm EDT
South Asia
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Semafor Signals

Indians vote in record heat that could threaten election turnout

Insights from Al Jazeera, DW, and the Associated Press

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Men use a stole to cover from heat as they wait in a line outside a polling station to cast their votes during the sixth phase of India's general election, on a hot summer day in Bhubaneswar, India, May 25, 2024.
REUTERS/Stringer
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The News

The temperature in parts of India’s capital of New Delhi reached a record 49.9 Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), raising the risk of water shortages.

The India Meteorological Department initially reported a record high of 52.9 degrees Celsius (127.22 degrees Fahrenheit) in one locality on Wednesday, but later said it was reexamining the data due to a potential sensor error.

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Sweltering heat has impacted voter turnout in the world’s largest election. Delhi officials said people who waste water will be fined Rs 2,000 ($24), and deployed 200 teams across the capital’s neighborhoods to police the scarce resource.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Weather affects turnout — and candidate choice

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Sources:  
NBC News, Reuters, Al Jazeera

Delhi officials urged voters to “overcome the fear of the heatwave” at the weekend, when temperatures hovered around 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit). But voter turnout in the region hit a decade-low of 57.56%, down from 60.5% in 2019, NBC News reported, reflecting a pattern of low voter turnout in other phases of the country’s ongoing elections. While the sweltering heat likely deterred potential voters, one study found that extreme weather may actually increase turnout in India’s elections in rural areas and help sway political sentiments when high temperatures hurt crop yields and incomes, motivating farmers to vote for politicians with agricultural experience.

Political discourse around climate change is different in India

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Sources:  
Associated Press, DW

While India’s ruling party and the opposition have vowed to combat climate change in their election manifestos, politicians have barely addressed it during their campaigns. “Climate change is still not among the headlines during these elections despite its obvious impact on millions of Indian lives,” a UN climate expert told The Associated Press. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean there is a lack of political discourse around climate change: “The politics of climate change in India is just not labeled neatly as ‘climate change,’” a fellow at a New Delhi-based research organization told DW. In party manifestos, promises to do with water supply and farming are climate-related, but they are “not placed within the climate chapters.”

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