A senior voter poses with a rose at Kala Bhavan in Dhanbad on Thursday. Picture by Gautam Dey
Democracy’s soldiers, the youngest aged 20 and the oldest 75, trooped to more than hundred special booths in Dhanbad on Vote Thursday to underscore how a congenial polling ambience could boost turnout better than chest-thumping campaigns.
Most of the 10 red-carpet voting stations and 99 model booths, which were equipped with water coolers and shaded waiting areas, some of them AC halls, and greeted voters with either gulab and gulab jal or garlands, saw over 60 per cent polling. First among equals were Dhanbad Club (62 per cent), Kala Bhavan (62.12 per cent) and Gujarati Pathshala (60.4 per cent).
Manager of the elite club, which was a red-carpet booth with a large central AC hall, said they had 397 voters on the rolls, including Dhanbad deputy development commissioner C.K. Mandal who exercised his franchise as early as 8am. “We distributed more than 200 roses, which itself shows that the turnout was fairly decent,” said Rajat Kumar Mukherjee.
Ashish Kumar Roy, the presiding officer of Kala Bhavan, echoed him. “The arrangements like a red carpet, seating arrangements and cool water made voters feel special. They definitely turned up in larger numbers because they knew they wouldn’t have to queue up in this heat. Had there been no such provisions, many senior citizens would have stayed at home today,” Roy said.
Manoram Nagar resident Shiv Nath Singh agreed. “At my age, standing in long queues, that too in peak summer, is next to impossible even if it means ditching democracy. Fortunately, I voted at Kala Bhavan, which was a designated red-carpet booth,” the 63-year-old said.
Retired schoolteacher and septuagenarian Govind Pathak seconded Singh. “It took me just five minutes to cast my vote so good were the arrangements. Hope the model is followed everywhere and not just select booths next time. It will be of great help to the elderly and the indisposed. The polling percentage too will increase,” the 75-year-old said.
Young Dhanbad too had similar views.
Said BSS Women’s College student Bhanupriya: “This is my first general election and I exercised my franchise at Dhanbad Club. I felt so special when I was offered a rose,” the 20-year-old giggled, adding, “The facilities must be provided at every booth next time.”
Ved Prakah (22), who works with Samsung India in Delhi, too voted at the club. “My vote went to someone who I think will give us a stable government, which can stem inflation and recession at the same time,” the youth said, adding that he was glad he didn’t have to stand in an unending queue.
Sisters Puja (21) and Neha Singh (22), both first-time voters, considered themselves lucky as well as they exercised their power of democracy at Kala Bhavan.
“It was both an exciting and pleasant experience. The arrangements were indeed good,” Neha said. “We want the new government to give us jobs and end corruption,” added Puja.
Veteran couple Virendra Mohan Chaudhary (69), a retired marketing official, and wife Tara Rani (65) too lauded the district administration’s efforts. “I have voted on more than five occasions in my life, but this experience was the best. I hope the new government contains price rise with equal enthusiasm,” Chaudhary echoed his younger co-voters at Kala Bhavan.