Women take driver's seat as Chandigarh breaks voting record (Election Special)
When Chandigarh broke all its previous highs of voting for parliament this Thursday, it was women from the city who led from the front.
The union territory, which has only one Lok Sabha seat, voted to a new high of nearly 74 percent.
As per the latest figures, 74.15 percent women voters - 208,413 out of 28,1051 registered voters - came out to vote. Compared to this, men voters fell short by a slender margin, registering a figure of 73.57 percent. Out of the 332,888 registered men voters, 244,901 voted.
"Call it 'women empowerment' or the attraction of glamour and celebrity women in the fray, Chandigarh's women voters have come out in full force. It is a good sign for democracy here. It could be a vote for change," Meenakshi Sharma, a young housewife in Sector 18, told IANS.
Pitted against the sitting MP and Congress leader Pawan Kumar Bansal were three women candidates - Kirron Kher (BJP), Gulkirat Kaur Panag (Gul Panag) of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Jannat Jahan-ul-Haq (Bahujan Samaj Party). This is the first time in Chandigarh that three women candidates from main political parties were in the fray.
Two of these main candidates, Kirron Kher and Gul Panag, are actresses from Mumbai's film and TV industry. While Gul is a former Miss India (1999), Kher is the wife of actor Anupam Kher. Both ladies, who battled the 'outsider' tag, had earlier lived and studied in Chandigarh.
The overall voting percentage recorded in Chandigarh, 73.84 percent, as per the final figures released by the Election department. The previous high for Chandigarh was 68.1 percent polling in the 1984 general election. At that time too, 68.5 percent women had voted.
In the 2009 general election, just over 65 percent of Chandigarh had voted. In 2004, Chandigarh's voting was a dismal 51 percent.
The city's all-time lowest turnout was in the 1999 election at just 48.35 percent.
Some believe that the voting percentage could have been higher this time if a number of names had not been deleted.
"I went to the polling station with a valid election ID card but found that my name was deleted from the voters' list. I was so upset. The officials did little to help," Reetika Khanna, a school teacher, told IANS.
While the colonies and villages voted heavily, some of them registering 75-85 percent voting, voters in Chandigarh's urban areas too came out in good numbers.
Chandigarh's VIP sector, comprising 1 to 12 sectors, which did not vote much in the past, too returned with impressive voting figure of over 70 percent.
Chandigarh's southern sectors, from 32 to 49, which had over 90,000 registered voters, could not maintain the high voting percentage. Here, the polling was around 65 to 69 percent. In one polling booth in Sector 45, the polling was just about 30 percent.
"We did our best to make people aware about voting and the results are encouraging with this high turnout," Chandigarh's returning officer Mohammed Shayin said.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 13-04-2014)