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HindustanTimes Tue,12 Aug 2014
DELHI | MP | RAJASTHAN | MIZORAM | CHHATTISGARH
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Four states have clocked record turnouts, it’s Delhi’s turn to walk the talk

Chetan Chauhan and Sidhartha Roy, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 04, 2013
First Published: 02:26 IST(4/12/2013) | Last Updated: 02:28 IST(4/12/2013)

Are you going to vote today?

In Rajasthan they walked through desert, in Chhattisgarh they braved Maoists’ warnings, in Mizoram they walked hilly miles and in Madhya Pradesh they crossed dense forests – all to exercise their right to vote and for their voices to be heard.

There is no reason why you can’t match the record turnout that the four states have clocked this poll season. Schools and all government offices will remain closed on Wednesday, while those in private sector have allowed the staff to come in late after casting their vote.

Unlike other states, in Delhi the average distance of a polling booth for a voter is not more than 500 metres. “Desert, dense forests or Naxal war-zone were not a hurdle for people in other states… I don’t see any reason for people not turning up to vote in large numbers in Delhi,” said a senior Election Commission functionary.

None of the candidates worthy of your vote? Put it on record. For the first time, voters have been provided an option of none of the above (NOTA) on the electronic voting machines. “Even dissent will be recorded and counted,” an EC official said.

Chhattisgarh with 77% turnout, MP 71%, Rajasthan 74.5% and Mizoram 81% have recorded their highest-ever voting percentages. It’s time Delhi set its dismal record right — and the signs are that the Capital will join the party.

“Motivation” and enthusiasm among voters was high, Delhi’s chief electoral officer Vijay Dev told HT on the eve of polling for the 70-member assembly for which 810 candidates, including 69 women, are in fray.

The Delhi election commission has concentrated efforts to encourage women — 805 for every 1,000 men voters — and first-time voters — 3.4% of the voter population — to come out and vote. 

“We had conducted a survey to analyse the urban apathy among Delhi’s voters and after that we have made targeted interventions to create voter awareness,” Dev said. 

Delhi, which held its first assembly election in 1993, has a poor voting record.  Not even half the voters — 49% —  turned up in 1998 when Sheila Dikshit dislodged the BJP government helped by rising onion prices.

In the last election, 57.61% voting was recorded. The best performance was in 1993, when 61.75% of 58.50 lakh voters made use of their voting right.

But a lot has changed since then – the number of voters has almost doubled to 1.19 crore. A traditional Congress vs BJP fight is now a triangular contest, with India’s youngest political party Aam Aadmi Party jumping in the fray and giving tense moments to both the big players.

Rising prices of food, power and water are major poll issues, thanks to high-decibel campaigns by Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP and the BJP.
The Congress and AAP are contesting all 70 seats and the BJP is in the field with the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), which has contesting from four segments.

And again, the polling booth is not too far — go rock the vote.

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