VP: Could you describe your role as Chief Electoral Officer (CEO)?
Ms. Satbir Silas Bedi: As Chief Election Officer, it is my duty to supervise the election process and maintain electoral votes. It is also our duty to ensure greater public information & outreach capacity, transparency, capacity building and empowerment of the citizens.
VP: How are you motivating the young urban people to come & vote?
SSB: See last time, we had a campaign based on the song ‘Pappu can’t Dance’ and that changed the whole voter turnout percentage from 43% to 60%. A lot of people came. But it was not only for the young people, it was all for those reluctant categories of voters who did not turn up on the day of the polls and had one excuse or other to not cast their votes. This year we decided to be more direct instead of just going through an advertisement campaign. We thought we will use the educational institutions and talk to the vice chancellors of the 6 universities in Delhi and ask them to do whatever they think would appeal to their students like holding seminars, workshops, rallies, street plays or putting this on their webpage just to inform the student that they have to vote. We also plan to set up a main unit on university campuses, where students can pick up registration forms. Voting is a responsibility. Because you know one thing is being said that we don’t want to cast votes or people don’t have their voter cards or their name is not on the voters list. But we had 1, 10, 61,000 voters in the last Lok Sabha elections and only 61 lakh came out to vote. So there were some 42 lakh people still sitting at home despite our campaigns. So this time we decided to take a more direct approach through educational institutions.
VP: Is ‘Jaago-re’ advertisement also a part of the campaign?
SSB: ‘Jaago re’ is a separate campaign but with the same mission.
VP: What is your take on illegal money being handed to voters by politicians, thus violating the model code of conduct?
SSB: Yes it is a violation of model code of conduct. But see there is only up to a limit that you can do about stopping people. If people want to take illegal money, we really can’t stop them. So it is for the enlightened public, the young and the old, as for that matter – anyone to be vigilant enough to try and stop it. But it has to be a community movement it cannot be only an official decision.
VP: India is the most democratic popular nation with the largest number of voters in the world. How does the Election Commission manage the whole process?
SSB: That’s a complicated question. See we have Chief Election Officers in each of the states and district magistrates in each of the districts and when we have DDM in each of the subdivisions. Now during the elections all this becomes a part of the election missionary. The district magistrates become the returning officers, the DDM become the assistant returning officers. We also draw staff from various departments such as the tax department. All over the country we use almost 16 lakh people on the day of the polls that come under the jurisdiction of the Election Commission for that day at that point of time for election duty.
VP: What is your take on the tussle between N.Gopalaswami and Navin Chawla?
SSB: No comments.
VP: In light of recent terrorist attacks and oncoming IPL matches, what security measures have been taken near polling stations?
SSB: Polling stations are always recognised as normal, sensitive and hyper sensitive and police arrangements are made accordingly. Last elections also, we had a lot of questions raised on whether the polling will safe or not but between the commissioner of police and us, we insured that arrangements were there. Everyone was working full time to make sure there was no breach of security. And we see no reason that this time it would be any different.
VP: Any messages or any suggestion for today’s youth?
SSB: A simple thing is that youth is full of energy and that energy must be directed positively and in a direction of working towards your responsibilities. I seriously feel that voting is one such responsibility. It is not only a right, it is also a duty and I would expect everyone to come and vote even if they did not do it last time.