EC hopes pre-Diwali poll date will draw more voters
Lessons learnt from the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year prompted the Election Commission of India (EC) to schedule polling day in the state before Diwali celebrations. Political parties and the EC hope this will help boost voter turnout, especially in the cities, reports Soubhik Mitra.mumbai Updated: Sep 16, 2009 00:53 IST
Lessons learnt from the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year prompted the Election Commission of India (EC) to schedule polling day in the state before Diwali celebrations. Political parties and the EC hope this will help boost voter turnout, especially in the cities.
Political parties, in the meeting held after the general elections in May, told the EC that many people went away on summer vacations, which led to a drop in the voter turnout. “A date before Diwali was chosen on the basis of feedback from political parties,” said Debashish Chakravarty, state chief electoral officer.
Mumbai witnessed an unimpressive voter turn out of 43 per cent in the general elections despite public outrage after the 26/11 terror attacks and efforts by various organisations to encourage people to vote. Most of the resorts run by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation were packed and hundreds flew to foreign destinations to holiday as the elections coincided with vacations.
Political parties do not want to suffer because voters are holidaying on polling day. “We shared voting trends with the EC and people choosing vacations over voting was a big issue that came out,” said Sanjay Nirupam, spokesperson of the Congress. “There is a thin segment of voters comprising of upwardly mobile people who go on holidays after Diwali. We do not want to miss out on them.”
Travel agents also have bookings pouring in for dates post October 18 when Diwali vacations begin. “There has been a sharp increase in bookings to tourist destinations in South East Asia from October 18 already,” said Anup Kanuga, chairman (western region) with the Travel Agent Association of India (TAAI). “It is expected to increase further as airlines are expected to roll out festive discounts.”
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) creating awareness amongst voters are optimistic about the move. “I hope that the move will buttress voting percentages,” said Shyama Kulkarni, a trustee of Action for Good Governance and Networking in India, a city-based NGO. “Holidays badly affected voter turnouts in the Lok Sabha polls.”