The upcoming Punjab assembly elections are not likely to see a large number of first-time voters, going by the lukewarm response to the new voter registration campaign.
Sources in the Punjab election department stated that during the statewide registration campaign held from November 12 to 27, 2010, and in several phases from March to November this year, less than 2 lakh youths in the age group of 18 to 21 years got themselves registered as voters.
According to records obtained from the state statistical department, the number of fresh voters should have been at least 6 lakh, considering the projected increase in population of the state since the 2001 census. Disinterest and lack of awareness are being cited as the main reasons for the wide gap.
In the seven assembly constituencies of Bathinda district, 10,292 new voters were registered in the enrolment drive till March. According to estimates of the district administration, the number of new voters (18-21 years) should have been at least 50,000. Following the Election Commission’s directions to deputy commissioners to motivate youngsters to get themselves registered, the number in the district has touched 20,000.
In Patiala district, the number of new voters is only 23,000, whereas it should have been more than 60,000.
Sources said the percentage of new voters was very low in the border districts of Gurdaspur, Ferozepur, Amristsar and Fazilka. The discouraging figures have prompted chief electoral officer Kusumjit Sidhu to issue fresh directions to deputy commissioners to do the needful.
During a meeting with DCs on Sunday, Sidhu had stated that the Election Commission of India (ECI) would project cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni and former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam as the icons who would inspire voters to cast the ballot in the coming elections.
The ECI would resume the new voter registration campaign on January 2. Applicants’ age should be at least 18 years as on January 1. The commission has directed DCs to ask for a letter from principals of various educational institutions, mentioning that all students eligible to vote have got themselves registered as voters and none are left.