UP: A Role Model For ECI
Uttar Pradesh, like the rest of the country, will be issuing coloured plastic coated cards for its new voters from September 2013. While the new cards will be issued totally free of cost, those wishing to replace their black and white ones issued previously will have to pay a nominal fee for the replacement.
This information was given out by the UP Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Mr Umesh Sinha in a tete-a-tete with Uday India. It is thanks to him and his team that today the state is regarded as a role model for not only Indian states but the world. The exemplary conducting of peaceful assembly elections in 2012 in the most populous state of the country has won him laurels. During the elections, four million new voters, in the age group of 18-19, were added to the voters list through an aggressive, people-centric ‘systematic voters ‘education and electoral participation nicknamed SVEEP. The campaign, which ran for nearly two years, has many first and innovative practises to its credit, which have been collected in a glossy magazine that is a collectors’ item.
With an aim to persuade and motivate voters to increase the voting percentage across the state a novel campaign was undertaken in 2010. The final roll on 1st January 2012 was 12.58 crores (126 million).
“While we got voters ID cards made aimed at ensuring that no one was left out, for increasing the voting percentage we focussed on participation of women and urban elite,” said Mr Sinha, the CEO who worked day and night to ensure that his team delivered what they had set out to do. According to Sinha they made sure that they captured the attention of the urban elite and made them realise that by not coming out of their comfort zone they were in fact doing a grievous harm to the system as they were allowing a free playing field to all the wrong candidates.
Speaking at his office situated in Janpath market in Hazratganj, Sinha said that youth are the target and so the new election strategy is to make campus ambassadors in the colleges all over UP so that they can act as motivators and pull in the voters.
Sinha said that in the 2012 elections there was involvement of all sections of society including media, educational institutions, PSUs, NGOs and civil society. Many national and international records had been set during these elections. The highest ever voter turnout of 59.5 per cent was recorded in these polls. With the increase of two and a quarter Crore voters, there was an increase of 12.86 percent from the last 2007 elections in the state. While 38 state districts scored a “first division”, the highest polling percentage of 76.70 pc came from Nakur Assembly Constituency in Saharanpur district.
HC SEEKS EC REPLY IN ELECTION EXPENSES WRIT
In the Petition filed by social activist Dr Nutan Thakur as regards adding of election expenses of a person the moment he is declared as a Candidate for forthcoming Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections, Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench has sought response from the Election Commission in two weeks. The Bench of Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice Mahendra Dayal gave this order. As per the petition, previously names of the Candidates came at the last moment after the declaration of elections but now-a-days many political parties officially declare their candidates much in advance who make huge electoral expenses thereafter which remains unaccounted for and is many a time much more than the prescribed limits.
Referring to the Representation of People’s Act 1950 and 1951 and the Conduct of Elections Rules 1961, Thakur has prayed to the High Court to direct Election Commission of India that the Candidates for various Constituencies shall be asked to keep an account of their election expenses immediately after declaration of their Candidature and the District Election Officer shall also keep a tab on these expenses.
“2012 elections turned out to be the most participatory elections in the history of the nation,” declares Sinha, pride and satisfaction writ large on his face. He said that the election campaign was designed to make every Indian voter realize that it was truly his election and that his participation counted and would make a difference. Concentrated efforts were made during the campaigns for increasing voting percentage, there was a spirit of festivity and no curfew like situation was experienced. People could drive right up to the polling booth. But it was also a festival of responsibility, youth were involved right from the beginning.
With a voter ID in his wallet, a person surely feels empowered and this little card generates a positive attitude towards his responsibility as a citizen of India,” said Sinha, adding that his has always been a people friendly office and any assistance regarding voter ID is attended promptly. Some unique features of the elections included voters registration melas, extensive use of website and social media, NSS, NCC volunteers involved in election machinery, partnership with educational institutions, SMS based poll day monitoring system (PDMS) was used, voter awareness Observers were appointed in all 75 districts, cartoons hoardings put up all over the city, brand ambassador introduced, voter facilitation by toll free helpline, web based portal developed at state level, Electoral rolls were accessible on website. “I am aiming at a total people’s movement, I want to create a healthy environment and make voting day like a festival. There should be no curfew like situation, and this we achieved in 2012 elections,” said Sinha adding that there were no restrictions and people were allowed to drive their cars right up to the polling booth. The result was a peaceful and incident- free election. He elaborated on some of the initiatives taken which were the creation of longest human chain, biggest rangoli, lighting with maximum diyas and candles, highest pyramid.
■ Highest ever voter turnout of 59.5 pc, an increase of 12.86 from 2017 elections
■ Highest ever women voter turnout of 60.29 pc. In 2007 it was just 41.92 pc.
■ Highest polling percentage of 76.70 pc 2- Nakur assembly constituency of Saharanpur district.
■ 38 districts were first divisioners (>60 %) as compared to one in 2007 elections.
■ Bulandshahr created three world records of longest rangoli, largest lighting of lamps, highest pyramid with thermocol coffee cups.
■ Barabanki district made largest human chain of 52.5 km
■ Firozabad district formed largest human circle with a periphery of 115 km
■ Mainpuri district organized 500 km long torch relay race was organized.
“We people made them feel that the elections were theirs. We got tremendous response from youth and women. Some of things like the longest human chain has created international record and interest,” said Sinha, adding that gender participation was heartening. It reached 60.5 per cent.
Reflecting on the challenges that came in the way he said that wooing the urban elite was and is still the most difficult task. As over the years they had become complacent and felt nothing will improve.
While Sinha gives all information about the 2012 elections, ask him anything about the 2014 general elections and you can see him stiffen.
“The EC is prepared 24X 7 to handle the announcement of elections,” is all he would say, adding that elections announcements of dates does not depend on the whims and fancies of political parties but on ECI’s data giving details of when it is the best time to conduct these elections.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow