IN an attempt to attract people to polling booths to exercise their franchise for the Assembly vote, the Election Commission has used various means. One of them was empanelment of a number of eminent Goans to play the role as state and district youth icons. These icons were to create awareness among voters of their rights and duties as citizens of India. However, while some of the icons were accessible to the election officers to play their role, others were not. Some of the icons had left no contact numbers. It would not be too far-fetched to think that some icons just used their empanelment to add some more glamour to their persona. Though the Election Commission has set out a criteria for choosing state and district icons, who are supposed to perform their roles free of charge, it appears that due care was not taken in the selection process.
The precondition while choosing the icons is that they should not have political affiliation and should be easily accessible. The selection this time around had its bit of controversy when in certain quarters an allegation was made that the singer Hema Sardessai had close proximity with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. The election officials did not find any merit in the allegations, saying that Sardessai was not affiliated with any political party. Sardessai submitted her resignation after objections were raised but assured to play her role independently to create awareness among voters. It is not that all those whose contact numbers were not available with the election authorities failed to do justice. One among them Akshada Bandekar did play her role by recording election awareness-related songs and jingles and also participated in a walkathon rally. Besides, she also cooperated with officials in motivating youth on ethical voting. Given the indifference among some of the people as far as voting is concerned, the icons that have a following could have played their role more actively in attracting people to polling booths.
Though the state recorded nearly 83 per cent voting percentage in the 2012 elections, the election authorities have set their sight on higher percentage this time. The Election Commission wanted the icons hailing from different fields such arts and culture, music, health, sports, theatre, literature and fashion designing to motivate youth, women, differently abled and elderly people to play their role in this endeavour and motivate them to come out and vote. The icons could not reach out to people through programmes such as systematic voter education and electoral participation (SVEEP).
The Election Commission should carry out an audit of the awareness drive for higher voting percentage and find out how successful the drive was in attracting voters to the polling stations and make suitable changes. Besides, in the light of the criticism of a few awareness programmes because of allegedly ‘wrong’ depictions, the officials who approve the awareness drive should be sensitized to ensure that only those scripts which do not hurt the sentiments of the people were only approved. The awareness drive should be healthy and sensible and attractive and should be conducted in such a manner that people feel attracted to not only promotional drive but are also motivated to vote.
While the election officials are doing everything possible to ensure maximum participation of the people in the election process so that the outcome of elections was totally public oriented, the political parties or contesting candidates should also play their role in ensuring that people give their verdict on the issues raised and promises made by them. The indifference among the voters could be attributed to failure of the politicians to deliver on the promises made by them to general public in past elections. There is a feeling among voters that politicians use every possible trick to ensure that the people cast their votes in their favour and then conveniently forget them. Corruption has been one issue that every political party has been promising to root out but after getting people’s mandate the issue is put on the backburner, to be raised once again when fresh elections are round the corner. It should be the commitment of every political party and candidate to make promises that could be fulfilled. The awareness drive for voting should not be election-specific but a continuous drive. Education about voting should begin from school days. To ensure maximum voter turnout at polling booths, it should be the endeavour of all the stakeholders to ensure that people should be made to feel that their votes are important and that they do count in shaping their future and the future of the state.