Udupi gears up for 2019 Lok Sabha elections


Udupi is in full swing for the elections set to begin today, April 18. Hephsiba Rani Korlapati, Deputy Commissioner (DC), Udupi and K Vidya Kumari, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), Udupi spoke separately to The Manipal Journal about what their target is for this year’s elections, how they expect a better voter turnout, facilities in place to minimise voting difficulty, and how important it is for one to exercise their right to vote.

Udupi has usually had a high voter turnout, having a voter turnout of 65 percent to 70 percent for the last Lok Sabha elections held in 2014. This year, both the DC and ADC were hopeful of setting a goal of 80 percent this year. Although the male to female ratio of voters in the 2014 elections – 52.4 percent males to 45.3 percent females – was a fairly wide margin, the DC and ADC have assured that this is unlikely to happen this year.

“This time we have tried to reach out to everybody. Even though the women voters may be low, we gave repeated emphasis on voter card distribution this time. We conducted two activities: one is Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) which provides disabled seniors and women access to all information and the second one is the photo voter slip distribution which we have successfully passed to 99.5 percent of the population. This can reduce the voting gap and any reluctance to vote,” articulated Korlapati who is also the District Election Officer (DEO).

SVEEP is a programme that is designed to educate citizens and voters about the electoral process in order to increase awareness about it. “For people who are unaware of the electoral process, we did the SVEEP program. As a result, our voting percentage increased, from 10 percent to 15 percent. In each and every place of the district, we approached schools, colleges, and beaches like Malpe and Kaup, and we tried to make sure we covered every area for more awareness,” said Kumari.

Television and newspaper had an important role to play in the 2014 elections. However, according to the District Election Officer, social media is equally important when it comes to the dissemination of election information. “Social media is important because information in any media empowers people. Information flow gives more clarity. It is good for checking online updates, election schedules and to monitor the queue in the polling booths. There is a ‘cVIGIL’ app in which Udupi topped in the redressal of complaints. We have acted on this application to ensure free and fair elections,” she ensured.

She also spoke about how elections are also a complicated process, yet have been watered down to maximise efficiency. “We have tried to reduce the difficulties during the elections by setting up a Voters Facilitation Desk. For physically challenged people, we have wheelchairs and magnifying glasses; we have special measures and transport for senior citizens too,” claimed the Deputy Commissioner.

The number of registered voters this year from the Udupi district is 15,13,231, and the number of polling booths is 1,837. The district includes eight constituencies: Kundapura, Udupi, Kaup, Karkala, Sringeri, Mudigere, Chikmagalur and Tarikere. The total number of female voters are 7,74,674 and male voters are 7,38,503.

However, the number of transgenders making up the total voter population was less last time, with only 0.3 percent. “For the low transgender turnout, it is because they initially registered themselves as either male or female. So maybe that is why the data is reflected like that. But now we are targeting everyone through SVEEP so we expect more transgenders to vote this year,” answered the DC.

Both the DC and the ADC shared their views on Indian youth, and their right to vote. “It is the responsibility of the youth to build the best India,” said Kumari.

“Our democracy is built on the pillars of citizens who participate in elections,” said the DEO. “The elections are when everyone should show their participation and fulfil their duty as an Indian.”

The Udupi district has many electoral candidates this year, some of them being Shobha Karandlaje from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Pramod Madhwaraj from Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)), Shekhar Havane from Republican Party of India (Karnataka), and parties like Uttama Prajaakeeya Party, alongside a few independent candidates.