A wind of change may have stirred both West Bengal and Tamil Nadu towards recording highest polling in their electoral history.
West Bengal polled 84.46% and Tamil Nadu 78.80% in the recently conducted polls. Post poll surveys have predicted rout of CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal and DMK unlikely to retain power.
Women voters appear to have played an important role in West Bengal, where the highest polling had been in 1996 of 82.94%. “Their participation in elections in West Bengal was higher than men,” said Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi.
Much before the elections were announced the commission had implemented an elaborate plan to improve voter participation.
Late last year, a survey in each of the five states to understand their Knowledge, Attitude, Behaviour and Practices of voters was conducted. From beginning of this year, the commission started working on findings of the survey, which cited distance of the polling booths, congestion at the booths and intimidation as reasons for not voting.
A senior commission official said a special officer was appointed in each state to remove the barriers and thousands of new polling booths were set up to facilitating voters.
Last highest: 1996: 82.94%
Last highest: 1967: 76.57%
“For the first time election commission officials distributed voter slips to each voter at their homes and it acted as reminder to them to come and vote,” the official said, pointing out that many voters used to be left out as representatives of contestants used to distribute the slips.
The commission’s efforts not only created a record in two states, voting percentages also increased in the other three states ---- Assam, Kerala and Puducherry. “Voting percentages have increased in seven states in a row,” a commission official said. Voting percentages have increased in Bihar and Jharkhand where polls were held last year.
Another high, indicating abuse of money power, was also reported from Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. In Tamil Nadu, Rs 60.10 crore was seized and Rs 8.35 crore from West Bengal of the total Rs 74.27 crore seized during polls in five states.
Quraishi pointed out that the "inducement of voters through distribution of money and in kind", paid news, voter apathy specially among youth and urban educated and security arrangement in Naxal-hit areas were some of the major challenges that the EC encountered in these elections.