With 60% vote, UP silences critics
Pundits have always got the pulse of the electorate wrong. By turning out in droves at the 2012 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, the people of the state have not only silenced the critics, but also made any prediction of a clear winner a risky proposition.
In the 2007 elections, the voter turnout was an abysmal 46.36%. Chief election commissioner SY Qureshi in January had even taunted voters saying the low turnout was "shameful for a state that is considered politically conscious and vibrant".
This year, all roads led to polling booths on voting days resulting in an all time high turnout of around 60%. The 13.7 percentage point increase over the 2007 turnout has translated into a 30% increase in the number of voters.The highest turnout so far in the state was in 1993 when 57.13% voters cast their ballots.
So how was the turnaround achieved?
UP chief electoral officer Umesh Sinha said their focus was on enrolling new voters, especially women. "The Election Commission organised voter enrollment drives in universities and colleges. Teachers and non-voluntary organisations were roped in to woo the students," Sinha said.
Voter registration centres were opened at 400 tehsil headquarters and booth level officers organised door-to-door campaigns to enroll voters.
The EC strategy also included making Election 2012 a voter-friendly affair by launching new initiatives such as search engines, call centres and help lines.
"Public life was not disturbed during the polls as the EC imposed ban on the use of loudspeakers and wall writings. Movement of vehicles was also regulated," he said.
The EC had also roped in popular folk singer Malini Awasthi as its brand ambassador to attract women voters.
Sinha said district magistrates also played an important role in creating awareness and motivating voters by organising human chains and competitions.
The seven-phase UP assembly elections were held on February 8, 11, 15, 19, 23, 28 and March 3.