With the 2014 general elections registering a record high voter turnout of 66.38% and as many as 15 states and Union Territories witnessing their highest polling percentage, the Election Commission of India is being credited for its efforts to reach out to voters, especially youth and women.
"It is a great achievement. I think the SVEEP (Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation) activities have to be counted as the main reason behind such a high voter turnout," former chief election commissioner SY Qureshi told IANS.
The SVEEP, which was started by the Election Commission, a constitutional body, after the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, focuses on increasing voter awareness and their education, improving electoral participation and revising and updating electoral rolls.
Under the initiative, the poll panel organised various street plays, slogan-writing competitions and also events involving celebrities.
The result was impressive: 66.38% of the 827-million-strong Indian electorate exercising their franchise, with the polling percentage in the world's biggest democratic exercise comfortably surpassed the 1984 turnout of 64% when Rajiv Gandhi became the prime minister after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Under the Election Commission's initiative, actors Soha Ali Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Saif Ali Khan and Jimmy Shergill urged people ahead of the assembly election last year to vote, while others like Jacky Bhagnani, Neha Sharma and comedian Kapil Sharma encouraged the voters this time.
"Under SVEEP, the Election Commission also organised enrolment programmes for transgenders in various states and helped in filling up the gender gap — which was hardly a focus in the previous elections," Dhirendra Ojha, a director at the Election Commission, said.
Ojha said that unlike previous occasions, there was an unprecedented rise in the voting percentage of the youth.
He added that the high voting percentage in this election has clearly given an idea that voting percentage will "rise in the future".
Another poll official said the youth and women were the main targets. "Over 10 lakh (one million) young voters were enrolled as voters and also made to pledge that they will vote. Such campaigns were held at colleges," the official told IANS.
Ojha further said that voters were also influenced by the way political parties advertised and campaigned. Qureshi added, "Maybe the Modi factor influenced the voters in our country. The AAP's style of door-to-door to campaigning can also be counted as a reason."
In the 2014 elections, altogether 551 million voters - m?ore than the combined population of the US, Germany, Canada and the UK - cast their ballots this year.
The figure shattered the previous record of 417 million for any general election set five years ago. Altogether 130 million more voters had exercised their franchise than in the 2009 elections, which had recorded a polling percentage of 58.19%.