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HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Women, youth power push up turnout by 140 million over 2009

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 02, 2014
First Published: 00:24 IST(2/5/2014) | Last Updated: 12:45 IST(2/5/2014)

Propelled by the high octane poll campaign by leaders of all parties, women and youth have registered record turnouts in 438 Lok Sabha constituencies where polling was over by the seventh phase on Wednesday, Election Commission (EC) officials said. But there is only one Congress-ruled state — Maharashtra — in the list of top 10 states recording higher voter turnouts. 

About 140 million more people turned up at polling stations in these constituencies compared to the turnout in these 438 constituencies in the general elections in 2009. This is about 40 million more than the total number of voters -- 100 million -- added to the electoral rolls in the past five years.

According to EC data, as many as 442 million people -- more than South America’s population -- of India’s 814 million voters have exercised their franchise so far. In 2009, the number of people who cast their votes was about 300 million in the same constituencies.

Read: Inked for India: What the youth think of elections

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“It is an impressive and phenomenal voter participation never seen before,” said Akshaya Rout, director general in charge of the EC’s voter awareness programme. Rout said the EC’s efforts to simplify voter registration and cleaning of electoral rolls contributed in a big way to the higher turnout this time.

The figures translate into 66.20 % voting this time compared to 57.61% in 2009. The highest ever polling was registered in Punjab, Chandigarh, Goa and Tripura. And if the present trend continues, the 2014 polls will break the record of 64.01% polling in 1984-85 when the elections were held in an emotionally surcharged atmosphere following the assassination of the then PM, Indira Gandhi.

Read: Women must 'lean in’ to be taken seriously in the political sphere

This election has also shown that voting has become fashionable among many young voters, with many of them posting selfies with the ink marks on the social media. BJP prime ministerial candidate Narenda Modi galvanising the campaign and Priyanka Gandhi dominating the media space over the past fortnight may have contributed to the high turnout, analysts said. Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP has also caught the imagination of the youth in many constituencies.

This would not have been possible without women and youths, who constitute about two-thirds of the country’s population of 1.2 billion.

EC data shows that more women turned up at polling booths than men although the difference in voting numbers between the two genders was marginal.  Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research, said the data gives two clear indications. “First, they (women) are now more aware about their rights and want to exercise it and second, they are angry,” she said.

Another interesting trend is the higher voter participation in states with sizeable numbers of youth in the electoral rolls. About one-fifth of the total voters in India are in the age group of 18-25.

Read: Youth flaunt inked fingers on social networking sites

Read: Women vote to see drug-free Ludhiana


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