Thursday, December 2, 2021

Polling For 17th Lok Sabha Concludes

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The Seven phase Lok Sabha (lower House of Indian Parliament) elections concluded on a high note amidst overwhelming participation of the electorate. Overall, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which had about 900 million electors, registered nearly 66 per cent voter turnout. India has once again demonstrated her intrinsic strength and faith in vibrant and participative democracy.

The world’s largest democracy saw exuberant participation by the electors, with Election Commission of India (ECI) making robust arrangements for senior citizens and differently abled voters. Three feet tall Vinita Jain of Indore in Madhya Pradesh proudly flashed her inked finger after exercising her franchise. In a first, Saba and Farah, the conjoined twin sisters cast their votes as two separate individuals in Patna in Bihar. The Lok Sabha elections inspired the Indian voters staying abroad was evident, as a large number of them flew down just to cast their vote. Indeed, many people including even daily wage earners; within the country also took leave from their workplaces to cast their ballot at native places. The high voters’ turnout is indeed a credit of extraordinary campaign for voters’ mobilization and awareness. That 85 million new voters were enlisted speaks volumes about the preparedness by the Election Commission.

The final phase of polling for 59 Lok Sabha seats were held in eight states on Sunday. In all, elections have been held for 542 Lok Sabha seats. Election Commission had cancelled elections for Vellore constituency (in Tamil Nadu) in a crackdown against use of money power to influence electors. President of India nominates two Anglo-Indians to the Lok Sabha, which has a strength of 545.

Shyam Saran Negi, 102, cast his vote as polling officials welcomed him with fanfare in Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. Negi deserved rousing welcome not just for being a senior citizen, but for being India’s first voter. He had cast his vote way back in the 1951 elections too. His state Himachal Pradesh along with Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and the Union Territory of Chandigarh figured in the seventh and last phase of elections. As many as 918 candidates, including incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, were in the fray. About 10 million electors were eligible to cast their votes in the last phase of elections, which saw a healthy 64 per cent turnout.

Election Commission rightly deserves praise for ensuring gender parity in voters’ turn-out. There was a gap of nine percent in male and female voters’ turn-out in 2009 Lok Sabha elections, which came down to 1.4 per cent in 2014, it has further come down to just 0.4 per cent in the current elections. Women voters, incidentally, outnumbered their male counterparts in quite a few states.

In the course of 38 days, the Election Commission conducted polling with the help of millions of personnel drawn out from various central and state government departments. Hundreds of companies of paramilitary forces ensured free and fair polling. True to the mandate that elections should be held without fear and inducements, Election Commission maintained a hawk’s eye on movement of cash, liquor and other kinds of allurements. The total seizure of prohibited items stood at over Rs. 3,400 crores. Incidentally, seizures of valuables exceed expenditure incurred by the government on elections! It can well be noted that seized currency is deposited in the Consolidated Fund of India, which is accounted for in the Union Budget.

Electors too deserve a pat as it was for the ninth occasion out of a total of 17 Lok Sabha elections so far that voters’ turn-out went past 60 per cent. The high voter turn-out, righty, asserts people’s deep faith in India’s democratic polity.

Counting of votes would be taken up on May 23, with an additional feature of a sample of votes being matched with paper verification trail at polling booths (VVPAT). The 2019 Lok Sabha elections have rightly affirmed that power indeed flows from the ballot in India.

Script: Manish Anand, Senior Special Correspondent, New Indian Express

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