Mann ki Baat: PM Modi pitches for greater voter turnout, praises Election Commission

New Delhi: Ahead of Bihar Assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday pitched for greater voter turnout in elections and particularly urged the youth to enrol as voters and exercise their franchise.

In his monthly ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme on radio, he also appreciated the role of the Election Commission in creating awareness among people about their electoral rights and enrolling voters in greater numbers by evolving various programmes. Modi did not mention the upcoming Bihar polls but was generally responding to a suggestion by a phone-in caller on greater enrolment of youth as voters.

He emphasised that it was essential for everybody to register as voters and “definitely” exercise franchise. Recalling his slogan ‘pehle matdaan, fir jalpaan (first vote, then eat), Modi said exercising franchise is “noble work” and everyone should do it. He said in a democracy, every voter is a dispenser of destiny and every person should ensure that their “priceless right” of being a voter is still intact by checking the electoral roll.

“It should be a practice for every person to assess whether he or she is exercising the right to vote. Patting the Election Commission, he said earlier, it used to be “just a regulator. But over the last few years, the Election Commission has been instrumental in bringing about a change in the mindset of voters. It is now not only a regulator but also a facilitator… It is a welcome change.” At the same time, he said the task of creating awareness should not be left to the Election Commission only but others should also contribute.

“Only the EC taking steps is not enough. We have to spread awareness in schools, colleges and mohallas not only during elections. The electoral roll should continue to be upgraded (with new names being added to it),” he said. He expressed happiness over increase in voter percentage over the years.

In last year’s Lok Sabha polls, India witnessed the highest-ever voter turnout of 66.38%. The overall turnout in all the nine phases of polling last year stood at 66.38%, posting the highest in the history of Lok Sabha elections, surpassing the previous best of 64.01% in 1984 in the wake of the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The turnout in 2009 was 58.19%.