The Telegraph
Wednesday , April 2 , 2014
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Flower power to woo urban voters

- Roses to discounts at hotels, election panel tries every trick in the book to increase turnout in capital

Ink mark on index finger and a rose in hand. A rosy picture such as this will be seen in over 150 polling booths under Ranchi Lok Sabha constituency on April 17.

The district administration has decided to woo voters with Dutch roses and rose water at 164 “model” booths as a part of its drive to boost the voting percentage in urban areas of Ranchi, which witnessed around 50 per cent voting percentage in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Apart from early voters, the old and the infirm and also VIPs will get the special flowers besides being sprinkled with rose water for turning up to vote.

Confirming the novel plans, deputy commissioner and returning officer of Ranchi constituency Vinay Kumar Choubey said: “We have decided to turn 164 polling booths located in urban areas as model booths and offer roses to voters there. However, the special treatment will be only for early birds, the disabled, the old and the VIPs. Rose water will be sprinkled on them too. We hope that this unique initiative of ours will help draw more people out of their houses and into the polling booths.”

Choubey took care to point out that the special gesture would be shown to the disabled and elderly persons because they take a lot of pain to vote. “The sight of the old and infirm coming to vote riding on the shoulders on their family members is the most common across polling booths. Despite being ill-equipped to move on their own, these people still turn up to vote. We want to laud their enthusiasm,” the returning officer added.

There are 2,200 polling booths in Ranchi constituency, of which 899 are located in urban areas. Of the 899, 164 will be converted into model booths. The selection, however, is yet to be done.

The Election Commission (EC), which is leaving no stone unturned to increase the voting percentage, is especially targeting urban voters as they are largely indifferent to the democratic process when compared to their rural counterparts.

“The voting percentage was around 50-51 per cent in Ranchi in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. This time, we are trying to increase it to 75-80 per cent,” said chief electoral officer P.K. Jajoria.

Among other initiatives, voters will get discounts at hotels, restaurants and even hospitals if they show the ink mark on their fingers. According to a senior official, the huge response that this practice got in other states in the previous election prompted the EC to try the experiment in Jharkhand this time.

“We will be offering 30 per cent discount to guests on April 17 in keeping with a directive issued by the EC,” said an official of Hotel Ahoka in Ranchi.

Voters can also avail a discount of 10-15 per cent at Fun Cinemas, confirmed its manager Vimal Kumar.

As for discounts in healthcare, private hospitals will waive 15 per cent charges for operation and OPD services from April 18 to 22.

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