The negligible increase of just 0.3 percentage points in voter turnout in Udupi district in the Assembly elections has come as a big damper on the efforts put in by the Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) District Committee.

The SVEEP District Committee had aimed at a turnout of at least 85 per cent. But 76.18 per cent of voters turned out to exercise their franchise on Sunday. The voter turnout in 2008 Assembly elections was 75.88 per cent

After all the publicity urging voters to turn out in large numbers and vote, made through distribution of 2.5 lakh pamphlets, 70,000 pledge cards, street plays, yakshagana, posters, banners and “jathas”, the Committee or the SVEEP programme itself has made little or no impact on the voters.

The Election Commission of India had provided Rs. 6.25 lakh to be spent on publicity to urge voters to turn out in large number in the district. The SVEEP District Committee had started its publicity on March 28 and it continued till the polling day.

S.A. Prabhakar Sharma, CEO of Zilla Panchayat, who is also the Chairman of the SVEEP District Committee, did not hide his disappointment. “We aimed at 85 per cent voter turnout, hoping that there would be at least 80 per cent voter turnout. More than a failure, I will consider this as a learning experience,” he said.

Mr. Sharma blamed the low voter turnout on the people living in urban areas and students. People from the district, who go to work in cities such as Bangalore and Mumbai, do not come back just for voting.

“When I went around the polling booths on Sunday, I noticed that the participation of the students and persons aged between 30 and 40 was less. The senior citizens in contrast were more enthusiastic. There was good turnout in the rural areas. It is the turnout in the urban areas which is a cause for concern,” he said.

Mr. Sharma said the success of this programme could not be decided only on the basis of statistics or numbers.

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