Even though the district election authorities are aiming for more than 70 per cent voter turnout, as desired by the Election Commission, it remains to be seen how far the target would be achieved considering that the polling date of April 17 for Pune district will precede Good Friday, followed by a weekend.
The swelling figures of advance bookings for four days, beginning April 17, for popular tourist destinations across the state available with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), Pune region, along with private tour operators tell a story that could prove a dampener for official measures aimed at increasing voter turnout.
MTDC authorities said almost 70-80 per cent bookings have been done for various tourist hotspots for three to four days, while the remaining bookings are expected to be done soon.
“We witness a marked rise in tourist influx every time a public holiday precedes or follows weekends. The same is happening with the polling date. As summer vacations are on for schools and colleges, it is peak business time,” said an MTDC official.
Citing an example, the official said more than 70 rooms at popular hill station Mahabaleshwar have been booked for post third week of April.
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“Only around a dozen rooms and few cottages are left, and these would be reserved soon. Bookings for popular tourist hotspots in Konkan, such as Tarkarli, Ganapatipule, Harihareshwar and Velneshwar, are also on,” he said.
Some local private tour operators said they have many bookings and tour enquiries for days around April 17, but refused to share the exact figure.
It is noteworthy that a little over 40 per cent voting was registered for Pune Lok Sabha seat in the 2009 general elections.
Deputy District Election Officer Apurva Wankhade has appealed to citizens to exercises their voting right without fail before going on vacations. “We have been also requesting tour operator organisations to plan their tours in a way that increases voter turnout this time. Operators can conclude their tours before April 17 and start new ones after the poll date,” Wankhade said.
She added that a slew of measures, including i-vote campaign in colleges and spreading awareness using specially designed chariots, are being undertaken the Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme to increase voting percentage.
Election authorities said MTDC bookings can be done online across the state and related figures cannot be an indicator of only Puneites going outstation on the day of polling alone.
Civic activist Vivek Velankar said the schedule of elections should be released at least six months in advance. “People usually plan holidays two to three months before the vacations of their children to avail early booking benefits for air travel, among others. I don’t think anyone will cancel their holidays at this juncture on any appeal. April is not the best time to hold elections, considering the vacation period for educational institutes. Also, there is lack of desired awareness among people about the importance of voting in a democracy,” he said.