EC undertakes massive campaign to boost voter turnout in northeast

Aizawl/Imphal/Shillong, April 6 (IANS) The Election Commission (EC) has undertaken a massive campaign in all the northeastern states to increase voter turnout in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Except for Mizoram, the voter turnout was much higher in northeastern states than the national average of 67.40 per cent in the 2019 parliamentary polls.

According to election officials, 63.13 per cent of 7.92 lakh voters cast their votes in Mizoram in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, while over 80 per cent of the 8.57 lakh electorate exercised their franchise in the hill state in last year’s (November 7) Assembly elections.

In the 17th Lok Sabha Election (2019), Nagaland and Manipur topped among the northeastern states in voter turnout with 83 per cent, followed by Assam, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh with around 82 per cent, and Meghalaya 71.4 per cent.

According to the EC’s data, the voting percentage is always higher in the Assembly elections in the northeastern states than in Lok Sabha polls.

In Mizoram, focusing on women, young and first-time voters, the EC has undertaken a massive statewide campaign to increase the voter turnout in the election to the lone Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram on April 19.

Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Madhup Vyas and Additional Chief Electoral Officer H. Lianzela held separate series of meetings with various stakeholders in the past two weeks to finalise strategies to increase the turnout in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The meetings decided that all kinds of educational institutions, sports and youth services and Social Welfare Departments would be roped in for the task.

Besides the officials of various departments, leaders of different organisations attended these meetings. The organisations include Mizoram Upa Pawl, Young Mizo Association, Mizoram Youth Christian Association, Diocese Catholic Youth Association, Mizo Zirlai Pawl.

Tripura CEO Puneet Agarwal held several meetings at Tripura University and other educational institutions, and led the campaign under the SVEEP (Systematic Voter’s Education and Electoral Participation), the flagship programme of the EC for voters' education, spreading voter awareness and promoting voter literacy in India.

In Manipur, on Friday, the EC launched a signature campaign from the Chief Electoral Officer’s office at Lamphelpat to increase the voting percentage and boost electoral participation in the state.

Various creative campaigns and explainer videos on applications like cVIGIL etc have been launched through multiple media platforms to promote ethical, informed, inclusive, and accessible voting, an election official said, adding that large hoardings and posters with information on empowering the voters have been installed at strategic locations across Manipur.

TV/radio talks, and jingles, among other things, have also been taken up in a big way in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections.

In Meghalaya, the Election Commission has engaged the ‘U Sangot’, a traditional Khasi tribe information broadcaster group, to undertake voter awareness programmes in the mountainous state.

Hundreds of tribals belonging to the Khasi and Garo tribes on Friday assembled at the weekly market at Byrnihat, the northern entry-point of Meghalaya along Assam, to listen to important messages from the ‘U Sangot’.

Dressed in traditional Khasi attire, the ‘U Sangot’ performers played a proactive role in spreading voter awareness among the tribals, who assembled at Byrnihat for the weekly market there.

Similar campaign has been going on in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Assam to motivate the voters to cast votes in higher percentage this time compared to previous elections.

The EC held a ‘Conference on Low Voter Turnout’ with Municipal Commissioners and District Election Officers from select districts in New Delhi on Friday, to increase voter turnout in the Lok Sabha elections.

Elections to the 25 Lok Sabha seats across eight northeastern states will be held in the first three phases of the seven-phase 2024 parliamentary elections, with 15 seats, including one partly, going to the polls in the first phase, seven (one partly) in the second phase, and four in the third.