Election Commission of India (ECI) said it was hopeful that its two new national icons, namely ace shuttler Saina Nehwal and Olympic bronze medallist boxer Mary Kom, would make debut appearances during the Gujarat Assembly polls to motivate women and youths to exercise their franchise.
"ECI has added Saina Nehwal and Mary Kom to its list of national icons, which till now had former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and Indian team captain M S Dhoni. I am hopeful that our new icons would make debut appearances in Gujarat polls," ECI Director General Akshay Raut said.
Gujarat will go to polls on December 13 and 17 in two phases.
"The work is going on with them (Saina and Mary) for the promotional messages to be released...We are hopeful for time they would make debut appearances in Gujarat," Raut said.
In a bid to boost the low voter turnout, the election commission has launched Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), as part of which messages released by the national icons help encourage voter participation.
A survey conducted by EC in Gujarat shows that women electorate lags behind when it comes to voting, the director general said.
"EC has consistently facing the challenge of low overall voter turnout in Gujarat, and lower participation by women. The commission is bracing up to this challenge and slew of corrective steps are being taken this time," Raut said, adding the poll watchdog was confident that the charisma of the two women would yield desired outcome for ECI in the poll-bound state.
"They (Sania and Mary) represent youth and women and have been achievers in the country....I am hopeful they will make a good impact," he said.