Hindu, Muslim and Sikh religious leaders shared a platform at the Islamic centre in Aishbagh Eidgah here on Tuesday to raise voter awareness and to help increase the voter turnout in Lucknow which goes to polls in the third phase of the Uttar Pradesh assembly election on February 19.
Cameras focused on the saffron-clad Mankameshwar temple Mahant (head priest) Devya Giri as she reached the Islamic centre where prominent Muslim cleric Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali and Rajendra Singh Bagga, president of Lucknow Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, received her.
The three religious leaders addressed students of the Islamic centre and told them why it was important for people to exercise their franchise. The students held placards with the slogan ‘Pehle Matdan, Phir Jal Paan’ (Voting first, breakfast later).
In his address, Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali said, “We don’t believe in giving a call to citizens on whom they should vote for in this election. We collectively appeal to citizens to vote and they should also encourage their family members to exercise their voting rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.”
He made the remark without naming Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad who on Monday had appealed Muslims not to vote for the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance in the UP elections. Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali, a Sunni cleric, said appealing voters to vote for a political party was against the secular spirit of the country.
“Lucknow has not seen anything like this in the past where religious leaders have formed an alliance and appealed to masses to vote for a party or candidate that they think is good for the development of the state. We are dead against influencing voters on whom they should vote fore,” said Rajendra Singh Bagga.
Mahant Devya Giri administered a pledge to everyone present that they will vote and will sensitise others on the importance of exercising their franchise.
Religious leaders have expressed concern over low voter turnout during elections in the state. Over 40% voters in the state did not cast their votes in the 2012 assembly and 2014 Lok Sabha elections, they said.
Out of total 12.74 crore voters in the state, only 59.52% voters used their voting rights in the 2012 Vidhan Sabha polls. Similarly, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, out of 13.88 crore voters, only 58.27% voted.
“This means more than 40% UP voters did not cast their votes in the last two elections,” they said. This year 24 lakh new voters were added to the list.
The religious leaders called upon all eligible voters to reach the polling booths in the Vidhan Sabha elections and create awareness among other people.