Saina, Mary to debut in Gujarat as EC mascot

The Election Commission of India on Saturday said it was hopeful that its two new national icons ace shuttler Saina Nehwal and Olympic bronze medallist boxer Mary Kom would make debut appearances during the Gujarat Assembly polls to motivate women and youths to exercise their franchise.

"The EC has added Saina Nehwal and Mary Kom to its list of national icons, which till now had former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and Indian cricket team captain M S Dhoni. I am hopeful that our new icons would make debut appearances in Gujarat polls," ECI Director General Akshay Raut said.

"The work is going on with them (Saina and Mary) for the promotional messages to be released," Raut said.

In a bid to boost the low voter turnout, the election commission has launched Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP), as part of which messages released by the national icons help encourage voter participation.

A survey conducted by EC in Gujarat shows that women electorate lags behind when it comes to voting, the director general said.

"The EC has been consistently facing the challenge of low overall voter turnout in Gujarat, and lower participation by women. The commission is bracing up to this challenge and a slew of corrective steps are being taken this time," Raut said, adding the poll watchdog was confident that the charisma of the two women would yield desired outcome for ECI in the poll-bound state.

"Saina and Mary represent youth and women and have been achievers in the country....I am hopeful they will make a good impact," he said.

In another first, ECI has identified 30 per cent polling stations (13,500) in the state where voter turnout has been low.

As part of the special measures to encourage voter participation, the EC shall hold a special marathon rally in Vadodara, he added.

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