In a bid to increase voter turnout, the state government, on the directives of the state election commission (SEC), announced a holiday on polling days — February 16 or 21 — in the jurisdiction of the 10 civic bodies, 25 zilla parishads and 283 panchayat samitis going to polls.
The government has also directed private establishments, including malls, hotels, IT firms to either announce a holiday on polling day or at least grant a window of two hours for employees to vote.
The state government in its notification issued on Wednesday has declared a holiday for its employees on both polling days.
About 80% of the 8.35 crore voters in the state, including about 12 lakh government employees, will vote on these two days.
In a government resolution issued by the industries and labour department last week, the government also directed private establishments, including shops, malls, multiplexes, information and technology firms, hotels to announce a paid leave for their employees. The order further clarifies that in the case of heavy losses because of the holiday, the establishments may opt give them a window of two hours to vote.
The government was also thinking of declaring a holiday in the neighbouring areas, which have no elections as residents employed in those areas may be from districts or corporations having the elections. “For instance, the Panvel corporation is not going to polls, but there may be offices there employing people from Thane or Mumbai, the corporations of which are going to polls,” said an official said.
JS Saharia, state election commissioner, told HT, “In a city like Mumbai, where people travel for hours to reach office, it becomes inevitable to have a holiday or a concession during working hours,” he said.
However, Nitai Mehta, founder trustee of Praja, said, “Two hours off is okay, but shutting the government for polling is a bad idea. Responsible citizens will vote anyway. I don’t think this will help in improving the voting percentage,” .
Voter turnout in past three elections (in %)
2002 2007 2012
BMC 43.25 46.05 44.75
Thane 43.13 56.66 53.26
Ulhasnagar 37.40 41.31 42.19
Nashik 55.40 58.2 57.19
Pune 50.81 52.82 50.92
Nagpur 49.07 56.28 52.00