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Today is the last day of polling for the 2014 general elections. By all measures, it has been very different from the 15 previous polls: It has been long-drawn-out, raucous, technology-driven and viciously polarised.
The last few days were marked by back-to-back rallies by political parties in Varanasi. During the month-long election and campaigning, no one was spared, including top Election Commission (EC) officials and bureaucrats who, barring a few, oversaw the election with sincerity and professional integrity.
A big cheer must go out for the foot soldiers of the EC: Those unsung government officials without whom the show would have collapsed and the security forces, many of whom risked (and gave their lives) so that we could go out and vote fearlessly.
It is not all over yet: The next few days will be equally cacophonous with the EC declaring that the exit polls can be aired after the polling hours today.
If there has been one party that has hogged the limelight, it has been the BJP because its campaign was better managed, well-focused and technology-driven and could easily reach people, thanks to increasing Internet penetration.
On the other hand, the Congress campaign looked almost prehistoric. For example, there were several photos of senior Congress leaders sitting with marginalised communities eating with them or talking.
The Congress leaders did not realise that such photos may make it to the front pages or primetime news but that’s about it: Such images do not always assure votes. AAP started off with high-voltage campaigning, taking off from its campaign in Delhi, but in the final rounds, it was almost invisible, pushed out by the two main parties.
However, there were several positives too: Women and youth participation have been positive — with ink selfies, Twitter and Facebook posts, they have almost made voting a fashion statement.
In many places, they have joined district administrations to popularise voting. These demographic groups have been targeted by the EC with an outreach campaign since the last general election in 2009.
The elections have been more or less violence-free and has seen a good turnout in most places, except in Kashmir. Even, Mumbai, the eternal straggler, also bettered its record. Election data shows that the country is on course for a record turnout.
In the first eight phases 66.2% of registered voters have exercised their right to vote.
That compares with the previous best turnout of 64% during the 1984-85 parliamentary election. Most pollsters expect the final count to touch 65%. So it’s now over to those who will vote today: Go out and make history happen.