In their yet another attempt to ensure maximum voter participation, Election Commission of India (EC) has roped in ace-shuttler Saina Nehwal and Olympics Bronze Medallist MC Mary Kom to make their maiden ‘poll’ appearances in Gujarat Assembly Elections.
Director General of the commission, Akshay Raut, believes that sportspersons can inspire women and the youth to vote in the upcoming elections.
“EC has added Saina Nehwal and MC Mary Kom to its list of national icons, which so far had APJ Abdul Kalam and MS Dhoni in it, to appeal voters to exercise their right to vote,” said Raut in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
“I’m hopeful that our new icons will make their debut appearance in Gujarat Elections,” he added. Gujarat goes to polls next month in two phases, on December 13 and 17.
EC has also 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 electorates lag behind when it comes to voting, said Raut.
“EC has consistently facing the challenge of low overall voter turnout in Gujarat, and lower participation by women. Commission is bracing up to this challenge and slew of corrective steps are being taken this time,” said Raut, adding the poll watchdog was confident that the charisma of the two women would yield desired outcome for EC in the poll-bound state.
Statistics of voter turnout in past elections in Gujarat hasn’t been encouraging. In 2007 elections, turnout was less than 60% and was abysmally low in 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
As compared to national average of 59%, voter turnout was 47% in Gujarat, said Raut referring to 2009 general elections.
EC has also identified 30% polling stations (13,500) in the state where voter turnout has been low. “We will implement SVEEP measures at these polling stations,” said Raut. As part of measures to encourage voter participation, EC will hold a special marathon rally in Vadodara, he added.