By Aarushi Ahluwalia
The voting process drew to a close after the Election Commission extended the deadline to accommodate the flood of unexpected voters. While only 17% of the registered voters had cast their vote by 11 AM, the voter turnout was close to an all-time high of 67% when polling closed.
The surge in the voter turnout is significant and is in keeping with the national trend. However, one may consider the factors that contributed to the increase from the 2008 figure of 57% to better understand the shift in voting patterns and their impact.
One explanation for this change is the Election Commission’s proactive approach to promoting participation in the electoral process. Celebrities like Saif Ali Khan and Sonakshi SInha led a bike rally in Civil Lines to motivate young voters.
The EC also employed student “ambassadors” in over 800 educational institutions to encourage young adults. “We have put up posters all over campus so people are aware of the voting process,” said Dhanya Venkatesh, 20, who is the ambassador and president of the student union in Kamla Nehru college.
For added convenience and ease, the EC introduced an SMS facility for voters to verify their names on the electoral roll. Short videos called “videographies” were put up on the website to explain the voting process.
The results are evident. Over four lakh new voters exercised their right, higher even than the Saharasamay-predicted 3.5 lakh.
Another new feature of the election this year has been NOTA (None of The Above) that allows the voter to reject all candidates. A NOTA-majority does not have the give the right to overturn the candidates.
“I moved to Delhi from Calcutta 15 years ago but I have never voted here until today, I was very excited to exercise the NOTA privilege,” remarked Ajanta Das Gatarka, 42, a publisher who cast her vote from the Malviya Nagar consitituency.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) entry into the political arena at the time of corruption, an anti-incumbent mindset and unexplained inflation provided an outlet for the desire for change among the voters. “I always vote but for the first time there was someone I wanted to vote for,” said Ankit Sharma, 27, Janakpuri, “Usually I decide based on the lesser of two evils, but this time there was a good option.”
By the end of the day, AAP seemed to be faring better than expected in the assembly polls with at least a dozen estimated seats under its belt.