The 2014 Lok Sabha elections, dates for which will be announced on Wednesday, is expected to see a 12 per cent increase in the number of voters compared to the 2009 polls. The Election Commission, thanks to its unique initiative -Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) - hopes the voting percentage to touch 70 per cent or even surpass it.
In terms of numbers, it could mean a staggering 57.12 crore voters,about 15.41 crore more than the figure during the 2009 general election. The turnout will exceed the 2009 voting percentage of 58.7 by 12 per cent and the all-time high percentage of 63.56 in the 1984 polls by about 7 per cent. More than 12 crore people are first-time voters this time.
"We expect the polling percentage to touch 70 per cent or even cross it for the 16th Lok Sabha election. The SVEEP has done work on a massive scale to educate voters,especially the vulnerable ones - illiterate, poor, marginalised -as well as women and youth," said HS Brahma, election commissioner.
Despite the positivity in the air, which is also because of the high turnout in the recently-concluded assembly elections in five states, the Lok Sabha elections can throw up some unexpected results. After all,neither opinion polls nor psephologists can safely predict the voting share or the number of seats that political parties will win.
Since January 2011, the Election Commission, through SVEEP,has been educating voters, right up to the panchayat level, about the value of their vote in a democracy. The Election Commission specifically chose to target 16-odd states where people shy away from voting. The states where polling percentage was poorer than the national average of 58.73 per cent in the 2009 elections are Bihar (44.5 percent), Jammu &Kashmir(39.66), Gujarat (47.9), Rajasthan (48.5), Uttar Pradesh (47.5), Maharashtra (50.5), Jharkhand (50.5), Delhi (51.8), Uttarakhand (53.5) and Mizoram (52.8).
Under SVEEP, there is systematic assessment of the current and previous electoral data.Onthe basis of registration data and past election figures, gaps are identified, gender and age-wise, in urban-rural groups. State-wise,district-wise and polling station-wise analysis is also done to find out areas which need to be targeted and educated.
The Election Commission also engaged agencies to carry out baseline and end-line surveys to find out the underlying reasons for poor registration, last-minute problems in updating electoral rolls,low voter turnout as well as identify the demographics of electoral segments with poor participation so that corrective measures can betaken and its impact assessed.
The results of implementing SVEEP have been encouraging as is evident from the recently-concluded assembly elections in five states. "Each of the five states which went to polls in 2013 performed far better than the last assembly election in terms of voting," said a senior Election Commission official.
Inthe 2008 state assembly elections, Chhattisgarh saw a voting percentage of 70.6. It was 57.6 per cent in Delhi, 69.8 in Madhya Pradesh, 66.5 in Rajasthan and 82.2 in Mizoram. However, in the 2013 elections, Chhattisgarh polled 75.3 per cent, Delhi 65.6, MP 70.8,Rajasthan 74.3 and Mizoram 82.9.
"Weexpect women, youth and people from marginalised sections as well as the middle class to come out and vote in larger numbers in these elections. This is how India can become a vibrant and powerful democracy in the real sense," another official said.
71.7 crore – Total electorate 41.7crore – People voted 58.7– Polling percentage
2014 polls 81.6 crore – People on voting list 57.12 crore – Expected to vote 70%- Expected polling percentage
Polling percentage in previous Lok Sabha elections
1952– 61.21957– 62.21962– 55.421967– 61.331971– 55.291977– 60.491980– 56.921984– 63.561989– 61.951991– 56.931996– 57.941998– 61.971999– 59.992004– 57.652009– 58.73