Online campaign urges people to vote wisely

March 21st, 2009 - 11:34 am ICT by IANS  

By Shweta Srinivasan
New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) Busy pursuing her education and career for the last seven years, financial analyst Anuradha Verma, 26, forgot to register and did not vote. This time she is determined to exercise her franchise.

And she can do it more easily now. Using online portal Jaago Re, she identified her constituency and submitted the registration form. Today she is eagerly waiting for her name to appear in the electoral rolls.

“Filling the form and understanding where my constituency is was so easy! I thought that registrations (for new voters) were closed. On a hunch I logged on to Jaago re.com. It took me five minutes flat to fill the form and register (as a voter) online,” Verma told IANS.

Verma then submitted her residence proof and a photo ID at the election commission district office.

“I thought the dates would have gone by, but registration is open till April 3. My papers were in place. I hope my name appears on the rolls,” she added.

There are tens of thousands like Verma eager to vote in the April-May Lok Sabha elections.

This is evident from the Jaago Re site that has managed to garner registrations from over 460,000 people across the country.

“The idea was to guide people and make the registration hassle-free,” Jaago Re’s communication associate Vandana Krishnan told IANS over phone from Bangalore.

The Jaago Re movement is a voter registration drive covering 37 cities.

“More and more people have realised the importance of voting. We got a lot of feedback and queries from people, especially first-time voters, asking us how their vote would matter. We explained that in many constituencies a single vote can change the result. People were convinced,” Krishnan added.

As educated youngsters avidly campaign online pushing people to vote, the number of first time voters is swelling. Last-minute registration could touch an all-time high before the five-phase balloting to pick a new Lok Sabha starts April 16 and ends May 13, Krishnan said.

Since February, the site has registered over 200,000 individuals. It hopes the momentum keeps going before the second week of April when the final voter list is likely to come out.

Many other online campaigns like smartvote.in and regional ones like MumbaiVotes are also going all out to urge people to vote.

While Bangalore-based smartvote.in focuses on profiling candidates, MumbaiVotes gives information on the six constituencies in the city.

Ahmedabad-based Association for Democratic Reforms, started by a group of professors at the Indian Institute of Management, aims at keeping elections free from people with criminal charges against them. The group has managed to rope in citizen groups and forums across India.

A majority of these campaigns appear to be non-partisan. They demand electoral reforms and candidates with clean profiles and provide data that enable voters to make informed choices.

Delhi’s chief electoral officer Satbir Silas Bedi said she was happy to see a change in the voters’ mindset.

“We endorse the campaign - and voter registration numbers have improved as a result,” Bedi said.

In Delhi, since the assembly elections in November, voter registration has gone up by 400,000, Bedi said. The figure now stands at 11 million.

As political parties and candidates try to woo voters, the Internet is playing an increasingly more important role in the elections. Many Internet users are discussing the elections on social networking sites, blogs and even sharing sites like You Tube.

(Shweta Srinivasan can be contacted at shweta.s@ians.in)

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