Even before the results are announced, the latest Assembly elections have thrown up a pleasant surprise. The voting percentages in all the states have been extraordinary. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, notorious for low turnouts, recorded 74.5 per cent and 71 per cent, respectively. Chhattisgarh defied threats from Maoists to register an impressive 77 per cent, the highest ever for the state. Delhi, too, registered its best-ever voting performance at 66 per cent. Suddenly, low voting percentages are becoming a thing of the past and the Indian voters appear to be more involved and informed. The most important reason behind this surge is the Election Commission’s aggressive campaign to enrol new voters, especially women and the youth. The systematic voters’ education and electoral participation (SVEEP) wing of the commission, opened in 2009, has been tasked with expanding the registration of eligible voters, addressing gender gaps and ensuring more participation of the youth. “The programme has been undertaken across the country and the increase in turnout has varied from around 10 per cent in lower turnout states to 2-3 per cent in traditionally high turnout states,” said Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath. For the first time, the commission deployed ‘awareness observers’ in these elections. In all, 47 of them were put on the job in the five states for two weeks before the elections to motivate voters.
Special strategies were put in place for roping in young voters. State election commissions launched programmes in schools and universities. In Chhattisgarh, for example, it was felt that the youth lacked a positive attitude towards the electoral process and that they did not know how to get their names enrolled in the voters’ list. To overcome such issues, the commission organised competitions in colleges and also arranged for counselling about getting enrolled in the voter’s list at the time of admissions.
In Rajasthan, a special registration campaign was run in the form of ‘college week’. Garba and dandia events came in handy in reaching out to the youth. ‘Your Vote Counts’ campaign, with events in colleges and public places like malls, was launched to attract the urban youth. In rural Rajasthan, ‘Youth Chala Booth’ campaign was launched.
In Delhi, too, a special registration drive was launched in colleges and universities. The commission popularised its online registration facility to appeal to the net-savvy youth and launched a mobile app that would allow people to register online. It also used catchy slogans, jingles and audio-visual advertisements. Door-to-door campaigns, candle-light marches, human chains, concerts and mock voting sessions were also used. “We have used youth icons such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Mary Kom and Saina Nehwal. Film and television actors like Soha Ali Khan and Toral Rasputra have also been a part of the commission’s publicity drive,” said Election Commissioner H.S. Brahma.
The commission has been successful in pushing up the number of women voters substantially. Health care workers and anganwadi shikshikas have played an important role in getting women enrolled. Women, in fact, outnumbered men in the Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan elections. In Chhattisgarh, 77.21 per cent of the women voted, compared with 76.75 per cent of the men, while in Rajasthan, the figures were 75.51 per cent and 74.91 per cent, respectively.
Full Article: The Week | Citizen surge.