The record voter turnout in the Chhattisgarh assembly elections and the largely peaceful polling process can be credited to the Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme run by the Election Commission (EC).
The EC had been running the programme, meant to enhance voter participation and awareness, in Chhattisgarh since July.
“The credit for the historic turnout, even in the face of aggressive campaigning by Maoists asking people not to vote, goes to SVEEP,” said a top intelligence official on condition of anonymity.
“Maoists tried their best to disrupt the polling process, but failed.”
The official said more than 50 IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were detected and defused.
In wake of a series of Maoist attacks in the state over the past few months, the Centre played sent 564 companies to ensure security during elections.
“This time we were extremely vigilant. All forces adhered to the standard operating procedures, and followed rules like not using vehicles in jungles and Maoist-dominated areas, which thwarted Maoist designs and helped instil confidence in the people to come out and vote,” the official said.
The relocation of 164 polling booths from the worst Maoist-affected areas to relatively safer locations also helped, he added.
When voting for the state legislative assembly ended on Tuesday, more than 75% of the electorate had cast their votes.
“Chhattisgarh being a LWE (Left-wing extremism) affected state, conducting polls was a challenge, more so because of the Maoist boycott call. But we had prepared well,” said an EC official.
“The SVEEP campaign in Chhattisgarh sought to tackle several specific gaps, one of which was dealing with the fear of Maoists. The other problems were long distances between voting centres and residential areas, lack of transportation facilities and lack of women's participation.”
This is how SVEEP became a success:
• Propagation through women and help groups to break the illusion among residents that the votes cast are not kept secret;
• Candle marches, formation of human chains, utilisation of panchayat workers and anganwadi networks;
• Activating private organisations, youth clubs, organising essay competitions, door-to-door campaigning, organising quiz competitions, debates, road shows, street plays, pamphlet distribution, organising special voter awareness programmes like ‘matdan ek pratigya’;
• Advertisements, hoardings, posters and banners in public places; SMSes, using Facebook, phone dialler tones, telephone helplines.