Multi-media campaigns by a slew of Government and non-Governmental organisations are exhorting people to cast their vote
It is an interesting election campaign — multi-media, multi-method and multi-pronged. Run by election officials, city corporations, students, corporates and civil society, this parallel campaign has a two-point appeal: go and vote, and vote ethically. You see it printed on the Aavin premium packet first thing in the morning, and above the Rs. 4 off offer for voters at a broiler shop.
It is high on the persistence-quotient. A former Election Commissioner kickstarts a mini-campaign by pasting stickers on two-wheelers as riders watch in amusement. At his office Praveen Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Tamil Nadu switches on his TV to show me a string of well-made short films — each ending in one of the two messages. “We do both mass-based and target-based programmes,” he says. While the Central Election Commission has roped in actor Aamir Khan, former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, cricketer M.S. Dhoni, shuttler Saina Nehwal and boxer Mary Kom to record audio/video shorts urging people to vote ethically, Praveen Kumar has his own list of star campaigners — actors Kamal Haasan, Gautami and Arjun, chess whiz V. Anand, singer S.P. Balasubramaniam, squash champion Dipika Pallikal, cricketer Dinesh Karthick and Prof. M.S. Swaminathan. “Our two-minute clips are screened in theatres and telecast on mobile video-vans. The Chennai Corporation Commissioner and District Collectors have organised human chains, rallies, processions and half-marathons reminding people of their appointment at polling stations.”
Posters with graphic consequences of selling votes have been pasted in Government offices, he adds. Village-level functionaries have been talking about why one shouldn’t sell votes, aanganwadi workers talk to mothers, self-help groups take the message around with their products, student poll-ambassadors have been fanning out from colleges with the message. “Two days ahead of the poll we’ll send a ‘come and vote, vote without note’ SMS to voters. We have 25 per cent of the numbers on our records.”
Youth Exnora International and Forum for Electoral Integrity are part of the CEO campaign to draw people to polling booths. On National Voters Day, school and college students were administered the ethical voting pledge. Balloons will exhort people to vote, ensure corruption-free elections. Visitors to the city’s 324 parks will be carpet-bombed with “Don’t sell your future” slogans. The 48-year-old Rajasthan Youth Association is on an election “tracker” telling the business community of their date with democracy. Posters will be pasted in temples, apartment buildings, schools, colleges, eateries, voice and text SMSes will be sent to 25,000 phones, leaflets will be given to school children to take home.
Innovation is the key. Under its Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) project, the Chennai District Election Office netted its election goal with a football tournament among teams made of corporation employees and local residents at Vyasarpadi. At Elliots Beach, postgraduate students of Urban Planning, Anna University, responded to SVEEP’s call and staged interesting street-plays. In a popular move, the Corporation Commissioner and Chennai’s Collector unveiled an exhibition at CMBT, where EVMs brought for a demo were displayed. A similar exhibition and demonstration at the Marina drew a fair number of passers-by. “We’ll take plays and folk arts like thappattam to all public places with the message,” said the Chennai District Election Office. “We’re looking at a 10 per cent rise in voter turnout,” he says.
It’s more than likely you'll be “educated” on voting by different student groups. Have you met placard-carrying NSS volunteers from College of Engineering Guindy, one-on-one-interaction-believers of Loyola College, the Youth Against Corruption Programme members of the Social Work department of D.G. Vaishnav College or street-play enthusiasts from Guru Nanak College? Their “Think and Vote” pamphlets have been delivered in many of the city’s crowded colonies. A rock show at Phoenix Market City strummed out the message to shoppers. Reports say corporate biggies like Tatas, Birlas, Hero and Infosys have declared voting day as a holiday, others have asked staff to take half-a-day off to vote. Voter registration facilities online, exchange of audio-visual material, posters, images and stories of experiences are all part of the “Go Vote” exercise. Tata Group’s initiative “Power of 49”, a creative crusade, aims to educate women voters, Infosys has been running an employee-led campaign telling eligibles of the relevance of voting. Their resource hub works with educational institutions, participates in SMS campaigns, street plays, puppet shows, quizzes, debates and flash-dancing in shopping malls and corporate campuses. You couldn’t have missed ad campaigns by HUL, Birla’s Idea Cellular, Hero Motocorp, ITC, Tata Tea, Google India and MTV India — persuading you to vote.
I’ll vote — with Shillong Chamber Choir's lovely “Go Vote” echoing in my ears.