EC’s publicity blitz fails to pay off

SHILLONG: Compared to the previous Lok Sabha poll, this year Meghalaya witnessed only a two per cent increase in voter turnout, the elaborate publicity blitz by the office of the Chief Electoral Officer to woo voters to exercise their franchise notwithstanding.
The voter apathy was evident as many of the polling stations in Shillong city remained deserted on the day of polling. Visits to Gandhi Bunyadi School polling station and St Jerome School polling station at around 1 pm revealed that there was hardly any voter in the two polling stations.
While many voters apparently did not turn up to vote for personal reasons, others said the Government should have arranged for public transport in the city to enable them to reach their respective polling stations.
Only a few buses were seen plying in the city during the day as banned militant outfit HNLC had called for a 12-hour bandh during the polling day.
An official of the State Government refused to accept, however, that the low turnout of voters was due to the HNLC-sponsored bandh. In his opinion, voters probably were reluctant to spoil their paid holiday.
The polling percentage in 2009 being 64.38, in this election the office of the CEO had targeted at least 70 per cent turnout of voters, but in reality the figure just crossed 66 per cent.  In many polling stations, the queues for women voters were long while there were hardly any men voted.
It was particularly the urban constituencies in Shillong which failed to live up to the expectations as the voter turnout in urban polling stations was lower than average. The voter turnout in Pynthorumkhrah Assembly segment was 60 percent while Mawlai Assembly witnessed the lowest turnout of 51 percent.
East and North Shillong segment witnessed 62 and 58 percent voter turnout while the turnout in West and South Shillong was 63 and 65 percent respectively. Nongthymmai Assembly segment witnessed 60 percent voter turnout.
By contrast, in Garo Hills, Rajabala constituency recorded the highest turn-out of 84.60 per cent, followed by Selsella 83.96 per cent, Rangsakona 80.80 per cent, Tikrikilla 79.41 per cent, Phulbari 78.28 per cent, Raksamgre 77.48 per cent and Dadenggre 74.80 per cent,
An urban constituency like North Tura saw a turnout of 72.87 per cent,  while  South Tura witnessed 71.82 per cent. The total percentage for West Garo Hills was put at 76.87.
Meghalaya has always faced the problem of urban apathy which continues to reduce the vote percentage in many urban constituencies of the State, whether in Shillong or Tura.
The lowest voter’s turnout in the whole State in 2013 assembly election was reported from Shillong North with 71.45 per cent of votes polled followed by Nongthymmai with 71.66 per cent.
Other urban areas which witnessed low turnout include Shillong East (73.63 per cent), Shillong South (74.79 per cent) and Shillong West (78.35 per cent).
In West Garo Hills, the town areas like South Tura (73.25 per cent) and North Tura (77.21 per cent) saw decrease in the percentage of votes polled compared to other constituencies.
In this Lok Sabha poll, the office of the CEO had gone all out to create awareness among voters through a Systematic Voters’ Education And Electoral Participation (SVEEP). Various kinds of awareness programmes were also organised to woo the voters. Interestingly, one such programme organized at the Lady Hydari Park had attracted quite a large number of children who had gone there for a day’s outing with their families.

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