New Delhi: Average voting was witnessed across the country as many states went to polls on Thursday in the penultimate phase of Lok Sabha elections. More than a quarter of the eligible 94.6 million voters had exercised their franchise.
All polling states had an official holiday however, not as many voters came out to exercise their right as expected.
Only Rajasthan (25 seats), Delhi (seven) and Haryana (10) saw polling in entire states. In Bihar, the last three of its 40 parliamentary constituencies saw voting along with four in Punjab, 18 in Uttar Pradesh and 17 seats in West Bengal.
Srinagar went to the polls in Jammu and Kashmir amid a boycott call given by the two wings of the separatist Hurriyat Conference and guerrilla groups, including those based in Pakistan.
Polling began at 0700 hours across the country. The number of eligible voters is about 11.09 million, nearly four million of them in the age group of 18-29, in the Capital.
Polling will end at 17000 hours IST and the votes will be counted on May 16. That brings us to the question: Why should voting day be declared a holiday?
CNN-IBN spoke to former IPS officer Kiran Bedi who expressed her anger at people who don't vote despite getting a day off from work.
Excerpts from the interview:
CNN-IBN: The crucial part is that till 1100 hrs IST only about 15 per cent of the electorate in Delhi have caste their vote, isn’t it a point of concern for Kiran Bedi today?
Kiran Bedi: The message is loud and clear. Stop clearing this as a holiday. You don’t need the whole day to go and vote, you just need two-three hours, you don’t need eight hours. I think it is principally wrong to declare it as a holiday because then people are not mobile. People are lazy, they have a reason to stay back at home and it is a kind of family get-together.
CNN-IBN: But look at it the other way. Isn’t it a kind of an incentive for people to go and vote?
Kiran Bedi: No, it is principally wrong to declare it as a holiday. Why not declare it as a half-day working day? Which means either you go to work and then vote or vote first and then go to work. By this way even the supervisor gets a responsibility to ensure that the employees go to vote.
CNN-IBN: But what about the will, we still have half a day to go.
Kiran Bedi: The appeals are not working. I have never seen such appeal campaigns being driven by media so intensively. Even after this also people are not coming out to vote then it is a shame. That basically means that they don’t deserve a holiday. People should get out to work and then vote.
CNN-IBN: But does that also mean that there is no urban leadership with whom they can identify with or vote for?
Kiran Bedi: No, this is I guess being apathetic to politics and the governance. You are just complaining and when it comes to you to vote then you find thousand reasons to not vote or be lazy. You want all the benefits of democracy but you don’t want to do that little thing that helps in keeping the democracy alive.
CNN-IBN: What about your neighbourhood and friends? The Election Commission is trying hard to force the affluent to come out and vote.
Kiran Bedi: The affluent are indoors because it is all air-conditioned inside. So I think the real people who are going to vote are those who don’t have a fan on their head or a cooler in their home; forget about the ACs.
So, those are the people who are actually going to elect the leader and this is the reason why all our leaders talk about them and not the urban people. The message is clear – from next time don’t declare it as a holiday, people should either go to work and then vote or first vote and then go to work.