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Awareness campaigns spurred voters

delhi Updated: May 08, 2009 00:34 IST
Anuradha Mukherjee
Anuradha Mukherjee
Hindustan Times
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Despite soaring temperatures and a long weekend, Delhiites did not pull a Mumbai and cast 53 per cent votes on Thursday.

It was the highest turnout since the 1989 General Elections, when 54.30 per cent votes were polled.

The Pappu campaign
The Pappu Does Not Vote campaign did motivate a number of upper- and middle-class voters to exercise their franchise. The awareness campaigns are estimated to have raised voting percentage by 6 per cent. “Awareness about the importance of voting was much higher this time. We have profiled candidates — newspapers had also given out a lot of information... it helped people decide. That and the fact that it was 38.5 degrees Celsius,” said Manujendra Singh, outreach coordinator (North India) for the NGO, Janaagraha.

Weather
For once, the weatherman was spot on. The maximum temperature on Thursday was 38.5 degrees Celsius — a degree less than what is considered normal at this time of the year. “At 2 pm, it was not as hot as it usually is. So, we all went to vote after lunch. Had it been a scorching day, my family and I would have thought twice before going out to vote,” said AK Bhatia, resident of C Block Janakpuri. The day also started on a cool note of 24.8° C.

Political reasons
Political analysts, however, believe that new entrant Bahujan Samaj Party was also a factor, as was the anxiety over the economic slump. Sanjay Kumar, fellow, CSDS, said: “The presence of multiple parties in polls contributes to turnout. If a new party that has sectional appeal – whether caste or region, like BSP does — enters, it makes an extra effort to mobilise voters.” BSP’s voteshare in Delhi has grown since the 2004 Lok Sabha polls. In 2004, it polled 2.5 per cent votes; by the 2008 Assembly polls it accounted for 14 per cent votes.

Political leaders, however, have a different take. They said that whenever aggressive polling takes place, the voter usually has an agenda on his mind. “One of the reasons could be the economic slump and the resultant anxiety over employment. People want a strong government at the helm that can take care of the economy,” said Jai Prakash Aggarwal, Congress’s Northeast Delhi candidate.

BJP’s New Delhi candidate Vijay Goel, however, felt that this was a mode of protest for Delhiites. “People don’t want to participate in protests on the street. They let their opinion be known through online petitions and their votes,” he said.

Dates
Officials said Delhiites were in the habit of going on vacation whenever they got an extended weekend. “Keeping that in mind, we had requested the Election Commission to schedule polling in Delhi either on a Wednesday or a Thursday. The Commission accepted our request,” Chief Electoral Officer Satbir Silas Bedi said.

Mumbai
Many feel Mumbai’s poor turnout at the polls on April 30 spurred Delhiites to vote. “Two days before polling, we took out a candle-lit march called ‘Delhi Lead the Way — Go Vote’. Delhiites are generally more politically aware because of the composite culture and better level of interaction among residents,” said Uttam Prakash, who led a campaign called Respect Your Vote.