EC, NGOs trying their best to woo voters: Voter turnout main concern

EC, NGOs trying their best to woo voters: Voter turnout  main concern
Highlights

EC, NGOs trying their best to woo voters: Voter turnout main concern. April 30 is the V-Day for the Election Commission (EC) as the city steps out to vote.

With April 30 fast approaching, all eyes are on the city’s electorate. Especially after Bengaluru’s abysmal voters’ turnout, the Election Commission (EC) and other related authorities are trying their best to get maximum number of voters to the polling booths. With summer at its peak, it is a big question whether voters will exercise their franchise in large numbers.

April 30 is the V-Day for the Election Commission (EC) as the city steps out to vote. Over the past one month, the authorities had set up a series of initiatives to improve the voter turnout in the city. Between March 28 to April 26, over 55 awareness campaigns under the Systematic Voters’ Education and Election Participation Plan (SVEEP), was taken up by many government organisations in the city. Apart from these, many NGOs and private organisation have been conducting various rallies and rides for voter awareness.

Somesh Kumar, DEO, said that the administration had been conducting awareness programmes in localities where polling percentage used to be less, providing SMS facility to voters to know the information about queue length and how much time will be taken for them to cast their vote.

The authorities expect that the initiative would bear fruits. The DEO is confident that the polling percentage in the city would touch 75 per cent compared to the mere 53 per cent votes polled in 2009. He said that the administration had conducted a survey by taking 2,400 people as sample from all 24 constituencies of GHMC and the survey results showed that 93.67 per cent of voters had Voter ID cards. “This itself becomes a great boost,” he said.

The EC authorities believe that providing basic facilities like water, chairs, hoisting tents etc, can help improve the voter turnout. Talking about the initiatives in the city, the DEO said, “In 15 constituencies, we want at least 50 model polling stations which will ensure facilities like chairs, fans and drinking water. Rs 10,000 has been spent to set up a model booth.”

Voting patterns in other cities

Looking at the improved voting percentage in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, the authorities are under pressure to deliver a similar result in the city, but are thoroughly optimistic.

In Delhi, the voter turnout which was 47.09 per cent in 2004 Lok Sabha elections rose to 51.85 per cent in 2009 and 64 per cent in 2014. Meanwhile 64 per cent of all the voters in Chennai exercised their right in this election compared to 61 per cent in 2009.

While many observers believe that the increased awareness on voting in the media, the responsiveness brought about by some celebrities and the strict orders issued by the EC to grant paid holidays for all the establishments on polling day, led to increase in the voter turnout, others believe that handing over refreshments too could have lured the electorate to vote.

“In Chennai, for example, a few polling centres were air conditioned, the voters were provided tea, coffee and buttermilk and the aged were provided seating facilities. These steps taken by the EC could have played a crucial role in encouraging voters to step out of their cozy niches,” said political analyst Aacharya Rajagopal.

Ronald Rose, Returning Officer, Khairatabad Assembly, however, is unsure if such facilities could be replicated in the city. “Unless someone offers complimentary lime juice and buttermilk, we are not too keen to take up the initiative. We are trying our best to install coolers, but if it doesn’t materialise, we will ensure that at least there are fans set up in each polling booth for the voters.”

Aacharya meanwhile believes that first time voters also might have a crucial role to play this election. He said, “The voter turnout has increased countrywide this time because the number of voters between the age group of 18-25 have increased. These people might not necessarily be voting to improve the political scenario, but their excitement of voting for the first time is possibly prompting them to exercise their right. Also, with the focus of political parties on the youth and the neck-n-neck competition between the candidates, as seen in Malkajgiri constituency, is pushing the young voters to exercise their right.”

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