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Elite classes, please vote

- Art of Living to raise awareness among urban electorate

Ranchi, Dec. 23: Art of Living will teach Jharkhand the Art of Voting.

Surprised? Don’t be. The organisation founded by spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar and synonymous with pranayama or deep breathing for the chattering classes, teamed up with Election Commission of India to push voter turnout in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram, which held Assembly elections recently.

Art of Living, which today signed a memorandum of understanding with Jharkhand’s chief electoral officer P.K. Jajoria, plans to raise voter awareness for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls in 2014.

It takes no rocket science to figure out that Jharkhand’s infamous political instability can be linked directly to fractured mandates time and again, giving scope for backdoor lobbying, horsetrading, tempestuous coalitions and so on.

The reason? The Jharkhand electorate’s indifference towards the electoral system and apathy to turn up and vote for a stable government.

Low voter turnout and a hung Assembly is something that all politicians of the state have learnt to fear.

The figures tell the sorry tale of infantile democracy in a state that has already completed 13 years. And shockingly, it is the PLUs (people like us) who don’t bother to vote.

If the data of Election Commission of India is to be believed, only 32 per cent of Ranchi constituency voters — supposedly elite and with a 77.17 per cent literacy rate — turned up during Jharkhand’s 2009 Assembly polls.

Pakur , with a sizeable rural population, showed a 72 per cent turnout in the same election. Pakur has a literacy rate of 50 per cent.

National Election Watch (NEW), an agency working on electoral reforms, confirms that the elite in Jharkhand has refrained from voting. As a result, the percentage turnout of urban voters in Jharkhand — who are supposedly capable of taking an informed decision and electing leaders who deliver — is woefully small.

Jajoria told The Telegraph that increasing voting percentage was the most important target. “We have signed an MoU with Art of Living to work on raising consciousness among voters to exercise their franchise,” he said.

On behalf of Art of Living, Akhilesh Parmanu, the regional head of the outfit’s wing Volunteers for Better India, said their thrust would be in urban areas and educated people. “This class understands the need to vote but do not cast it. We have signed an MoU to make voter ID cards, help make electoral rolls and generate awareness,” he said.

The outfit will work till Lok Sabha poll dates are announced and Model Code of Conduct is slapped on the state.