Hails Election Commission as a credible, forward looking institution

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Vice President of India Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today urged the Election Commission and the citizens to ensure a voter turnout of 75% in the next general elections to make electoral democracy more inclusive and also sought consensus on simultaneous polls to sustain the tempo of development.

In a message on the occasion of the 12th National Voters Day today, Shri Naidu stressed that no voter should be left behind and urged the citizens to judge the contestants in the elections on merit. As Shri Naidu is in home isolation in Hyderabad after testing corona positive, his address was  read out at the  event in New Delhi.

Referring to the increase  in  voter turnout from 44.87% in the first general elections to Lok Sabha during 1951-52 to the highest ever 67.40% for the 17th Lok Sabha in 2019, marking an increase of 50% in  voting, Shri Naidu complimented all stakeholders for the same. Alluding to the sustained efforts of the Election  Commission of India in this regard striving for excellence during the 70 years of the country’s electoral journey, Shri Naidu hailed the Commission as a  credible, responsive and forward looking institution every  votary of democracy can legitimately be proud of.

Shri Naidu noted that the challenge before the Election Commission is to ensure a steady increase in voting in every election to make our electoral democracy more inclusive by addressing the barriers to voter participation.

The Vice President urged: “In the 75th year of our Independence, let us resolve to leave no voter behind and aim to increase the voter turnout to at least 75% in the next general elections. Let each one realize that vote is not only a right but a responsibility. We, as a nation, must think and arrive at a consensus to have simultaneous polls to all the three tiers of federal set up and move towards better governance by focusing our attention on all round development of our people”.

Shri  Naidu referred to the substantial 8% increase in voter turnout from 58.21% in 2009 general elections to 66.44% in 2014, suggesting that it is feasible to reach 75%  voter turnout target from 67.40% in 2019. He complimented the SVEEP(Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation) initiative of the Election Commission launched in 2009 for improving voter participation.

Shri Naidu expressed delight over women voting more than men in the 2019 general elections by a margin of 0.17%, for the first time in 70 years, ending the gender gap in the country. (In 1962  general elections, men voter turnout was 16.71% more than that of  women)

Shri Naidu stressed on the need for more swift resolution of election disputes and creation of a more informed citizenry empowered to judge the merits of each  candidate in the elections. He urged the Commission to further explore innovative ways in which technology can enhance the credibility and accessibility of the voting process. He also referred to high voter turnout in the range of 74% to 84% in the elections to five State Assembly held under covid protocol last year.

The 12th National Voters Day is being organized on the theme “Making our Elections Inclusive, Accessible and Participative”. January 25th is being so celebrated as the Election Commission was set up on January 25, 1950, a day before the country became a Republic with the Constitution coming into force from January 26, 1950.

Following is the full text of the Vice President’s message (It was read at 12th National Voters’ Day celebrations organized by Election Commission of India today) –

Chief Election Commissioner Shri Sushil Chandra, Election Commissioners, senior officials from the Union and State Governments, distinguished invitees and friends from the media !

At the outset, I extend my hearty felicitations and  greetings to all of you and all fellow citizens on the occasion of 73rd Republic Day tomorrow. We are meeting at the confluence of 70 years of elections in our country, the 73rd Republic Day and the 75th year of our hard fought Independence.

Looking back at the past seven decades, we can legitimately be proud of our achievements in various fields. However, what is most remarkable is our continuous endeavour to strengthen our democratic structures to transform India, the world’s largest democracy, into a vibrant, inclusive, participative and progressive democracy where each citizen has a voice that is heard and each citizen contributes to the governance and development of the nation.

We not only took the bold step of introducing universal suffrage right from the time we became independent but established a credible institutional framework to conduct elections to ensure that the voting right of every citizen is protected.

I compliment the Chief Election Commissioner, the Election Commissioners, the staff of the Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officers in the states as well as every functionary engaged in conducting elections right up to the polling station level for continuously enriching our democracy. You are, indeed, the proud inheritors of an illustrious legacy that your predecessors have  left behind.

We have come a long way from the first General Elections of 1952 when only 44.87%  of the eligible voters turned out to vote. In the last general elections in 2019,  67.40% or more than two-third of the eligible voters exercised their franchise. It is heartening to note that today, we are among the highest voting nations in the world with a substantial  increase of 50%  in voter turnout in 70 years.

All this calls for a celebration of the remarkable foresight of our constitution makers, the indefatigable efforts of countless dedicated officials, the media, civil society partners and the active involvement of people and the political parties as well as their implicit faith in the Election Commission.

This is what we are doing today as we look back at the 70 years of our country’s electoral history and the ceaseless quest for excellence that has made the Election Commission of India a credible, responsive and forward-looking institution every votary of democracy can legitimately be proud of.

The theme of today’s 12th National Voters Day is ‘Making our Elections Inclusive, Accessible and Participative’.

The challenge before the Election Commission and the country is to ensure a steady increase in the voter turnout in every election to make our electoral democracy more inclusive by addressing the barriers to voting. This year’s theme of inclusive,  accessible and participative elections is, hence, very apt.

I am pleased to note the consistent efforts of the Election  Commission of India to improve voter turnout and also enhance the integrity of the election process.

Thanks to initiatives like Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), voter turnout has increased by  8% from 58.21% in 2009 to 66.44%  in 2014. I am delighted that in the last general elections in 2019 and for the first time, women voter turn was more than that of men by a margin of 0.17%. Elections to five State Assemblies last year held under Covid protocol formulated by the Commission has witnessed huge voter turnout in the range of 74% to 84%.

Voter registration process is now considerably simpler with the  Election Laws Amendment Act, 2021 enabling voters to  register  four times in a  year. The Election Commission has ensured access to voters in remote areas like the Spiti valley located at 15,256 feet above sea level and has been making sustained efforts to curb electoral malpractices. However, there is much more to be done including a swifter  resolution of election disputes and creation of a more informed citizenry empowered to judge the merits of each candidate. The Commission can further explore innovative ways in which technology can enhance the credibility and accessibility  of the voting process.

In the 75th year of our Independence, let us resolve to leave no voter behind and aim to increase the  voter turnout to at least  75% in the next general elections.  Let each one realise that vote is not only a right but a responsibility. We, as a nation, must think and arrive at a consensus to have simultaneous elections to all the three tiers of federal set up and move towards better governance by focusing our attention on all round development of our people.

I compliment the awardees being recognized today for their commendable performance in the last elections.

I extend my greetings to the Election Commission and all the officials, to the enlightened leaders of political parties, to the media, civil society partners and most importantly, every citizen of our country who are making democracy work and are continuously contributing to a robust, well-functioning democracy.

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