The Telegraph
Monday , November 30 , 2009
Since 1st March, 1999
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Men in masks to end turnout trouble
- East Singhbhum ropes in Chhau artistes to create awareness among red belt voters

Jamshedpur, Nov. 29: Want voters to dance to the tune of democracy, woo them with Chhau. This is the new mantra East Singhbhum is chanting.

The district administration has teamed up with city-based Sreemant Purushottam Chhau Sangh to ensure high turnout in the three Assembly constituencies of Ghatshila, Potka and Baharagora that go to polls in the fourth phase on December 12.

The first two are Naxalite strongholds.

Vijay Kumar Sinha, East Singhbhum additional deputy commissioner and Potka returning officer, said the district information and public relations department would flag off the awareness campaign tomorrow.

“Traditional forms of dancing have often helped woo dwindling audiences. We have roped in 12 indigenous artistes for street plays on the value of exercising one’s franchise. We are sanguine that our message to the electorate through a form as expressive as Chhau will receive good response,” an official of the public relations department said.

He explained that the traditional dance form would act as an effective awareness tool in rural pockets of the three constituencies. “The village folk don’t make much out of lengthy speeches or leaflets. So, we will tell them about the importance of voting in a lucid but emphatic language that they will certainly understand,” the official added.

Chhau performances always draw big crowds in suburbs and villages, and the department is heavily banking on this turnout to boost polling percentage on December 12.

“The entire campaign will be conducted in local languages by the Sreemant Purushottam Chhau Sangh. This is the first time we will use this dance as a medium to educate rural voters. Few alterations have been made in the form and style of the dance we will present to suit our need for creating awareness,” another official said.

Sinha said the district public relations department proposed to organise three programmes each in seven blocks, that falls under the three Assembly constituencies. The campaign will kick off from Baharagora.

Besides roping in the Chhau Sangh, the East Singhbhum administration is also distributing pamphlets to exhort people to come out in large numbers in the fourth phase to vote for a candidate of their choice.

It had used this time-tested tool even during the first phase, which saw polling in the coveted Jamshedpur West and East and Jugsalai constituencies, but, unfortunately, failed to evoke the desired response. While the West and East seats recorded a moderate turnout of 45 per cent each, Jugsalai was a tad better at 47 per cent.

Chhau artistes joining their awareness campaign, district officials hope the percentage in Ghatshila, Baharagora and Potka will help beat a second disappointment.

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