India Gets Ready For Votes First Phase Of Lok Sabha Elections

The world’s largest democracy is all set to go to polls beginning April 11. Spread over April-May, India’s 900 million plus electorate will begin casting their votes in the seven phase elections in less than two weeks. In the first phase, 91 Parliamentary constituencies spread over 20 states and union territories would go to the polls. Election Commission of India has made elaborate arrangements for holding the elections.

 People in India will be electing their representatives for the 17th Lok Sabha, the lower House of Parliament. To celebrate the vibrant democratic polity, Indians will be voting for their respective candidates with the hope that they would fulfil their aspirations.  The first phase polling would be seen on a few Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir and other states.

 Srinagar, Nagpur, Ghaziabad, Mathura are some of the key Parliamentary constituencies that go to polls in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections. Electioneering for the first phase of elections would come to an end on April 9. Eight constituencies in Uttar Pradesh would go to the hustings in the first phase. Seven constituencies in Maharashtra, five each in Uttarakhand and Assam; four each in Bihar and Odisha; two each in Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and West Bengal; one each in Chhatisgarh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep would go to polls in the first phase.

Election Commission has made robust arrangements to keep a hawk’s eye on election expenditure of candidates. The candidates spending on advertisements and social media accounts are being kept under watch. Besides, the Election Commission has taken steps to stop misinformation during campaigning. Spreading of fake information with an aim to cause social discord through social media platforms has heightened in recent times. The Election Commission has made social media platforms accountable to weed out toxic contents from their platforms. This will indeed help the electorate.

 Voters have been assured of the accuracy of their votes cast at the polling booths. Election Commission would be expanding the scope of voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). The voters would be able to verify if their votes cast actually matched with the symbol of the party of their choice. Undeniably, electronic voting machines have brought ease and speed in the conduct of elections. The use of VVPAT would be another feather in the efficient and transparent conduct of elections. Election Commission has rightly launched a campaign to sensitize voters about the use of VVPAT. This will be the first time that there would be paper trail of the votes cast. This feature would help in avoiding unnecessary controversies. The counting of votes could get prolonged in cases of dispute, but this would only help to boost transparency.

 Of late, India’s changing demography has seen overwhelming participation of the electorate in elections. The millennial voters would get their first opportunity to elect their representatives; this would be a distinctive feature of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 15 million millennial voters who were born in the year 2000 or after would be casting their votes to choose leaders for making India of the dreams of the 21st Century.

 Demographic dividend is an asset for the country. Population of Indians under 30 years of age is indeed a huge demographic dividend, this has also been evident in elections. The young voters constitute a substantial chunk of the electorate. Consequently, large voter turn-out is a trend in Indian elections.

 This significant chunk of electorate could act as the most vibrant participants in the celebration of democracy in the country. The Election Commission also has made provisions for NOTA (none of the above) for the electorate in case they don’t wish to vote for any of the contesting candidates.

Script: Manish Anand, Sr.Spl.Correspondent, The New Indian Express