Nation Politics 05 Apr 2016 Straight bat: Vote b ...

Straight bat: Vote bank message to lure voters

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | JOHN MARY
Published Apr 5, 2016, 2:01 am IST
Updated Apr 5, 2016, 2:01 am IST
Dr. Divya S. Iyer
 Dr. Divya S. Iyer

Thiruvananthapuram: Which political party doesn’t like a Vote Bank? Dr Divya S Iyer, the nodal officer of Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) under the Election Commission, has created one. In association with State Bank of Travancore, Dr Divya Iyer, assistant collector (on training) in Kottayam, has worked out a voter awareness programme. The motto: My Vote My Future.  

Every time you walk into 1,000 ATMs or visit 850 branches of SBT across the State, the Vote Bank notto stares at you from right behind glass doors of ATMs or they will be prominently displayed at the bank branches. SVEEP’s Vote Bank idea is as an offshoot of the basic question: What keeps the sizeable percentage (roughly 25 p c in Kerala) of voters away from booths.

The State’s 75-plus percent voter turnout is impressive. But what if more voters, who prefer not to vote, can be persuaded to exercise their franchise? The Election Commission entrusted this task to Dr Iyer and other SVEEP officers.
The original idea was to beam a voter awareness message to customers as they transact business at ATMs. But would customers in a hurry have the patience to listen to the vote advisory?

They may not. But customers will have some time as they wait impatiently outside ATMs. That’s the time the message will catch up. Says Dr Iyer: “We have undertaken a massive exercise of mapping certain sections, such the old people, differently-abled and transgender, who are normally outside the electoral purview. We will also focus the vote awareness on these sections”.      

Though the catchword is Vote Bank, this can be literally true when voters living in groups (such as at old age homes) are canvassed. Proprietors at these institutions are opinion-makers, who could sway the inmates, creating a vote bank effect. Candidates, who target such places, are for sure getting a bonus.  
Dr Iyer says she also made a few discoveries in the SVEEP process.

Some of the transgender (there are 337 of them in Kottayam alone) had never been to a Government office. “The first time I invited them, they came and waited outside the office, though the outside was worse, exposing them to taunts by passersby. Another was the enthusiasm of the youth volunteers in taking forward the SVEEP message and liberating routine poll work from its drudgery”.

SVEEP does not mind even if more voters turn up and vote NOTA (none of the above) because that it will be prod winners to be more responsible. “Democracy will become healthier. Inactive voters confined to homes do influence outcomes by holding back their choices and letting others impose their choices on the rest. Narrow vote margins may have to do with the sizeable chunk not casting their ballots”.   For SBT, this is a new feature of its corporate social responsibility and it enhances the brand recall.

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Location: India, Kerala




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