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Monday, June 4, 2012

Will mobile SMS messages become the future of Indian elections?

Will mobile SMS messages become the future of Indian elections? If the success of a Dubai-based radio channel is anything to go by, Indian Election Commission might soon start considering the use of SMS technology in voting. Thousands of Indian expatriates from Kerala, living in the UAE yesterday voted in a mock election, conducted by a popular local Malayalam radio station, Radio Me, to gauge the mood of the electorate.

The SMS voting in the UAE was held a day after the actual election on Saturday for the Neyyattinkara Assembly by-poll. A record 80.1 per cent of voters turned out to cast their votes in the poll that has witnessed stiff competition between  R Selvaraj of the United Democratic Front (UDF), F. Lawrence of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and O. Rajagopal of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Leo Radhakrishnan, senior News Producer at Radio Me's 100.3 FM told 'Emirates247' that the initiative was mainly aimed at giving an opportunity for those expatriates from Kerala who are living in the UAE to express their opinion."There was campaigning by the three contestants who came on air from India and explained their positions to our listeners. We then kicked off the day long election process where a listener could text his vote to a special number created by the channel. The voter had to type the name of the political front he was voting for, along with his name," said Leo.

According to him, a second SMS from the same number will be rejected by the system. "The response was really amazing. The number of messages was a bit dull in the morning, but it really picked up in the afternoon, and by late evening it just got crazy," he added. The mock election was held between 7am and 10pm on Sunday. The SMS messages would be counted on June 13 two days before the actual counting  of the by-election in Kerala.

Sushil N K, one of the voters said he was really thrilled by this exercise. "This is the first time something like this is happening here in the UAE. Although it is a mock election, it will go a long way in establishing the mood of the NRIs living in the UAE."C K Mohammed, another voter said while Indian expatriates have to travel to India to take part in the actual election, here one could do so by just spending Dh2 for an SMS. "It is a great initiative and should be continued,"he added.

The Neyyattinkara Assembly by-poll was held amidst a chaotic political situation in Kerala. The election became necessary after Selvaraj resigned from his seat in the State Legislative Assembly after he decided to leave the LDF and join the rival UDF. The recent killing of a Marxist rebel leader, who started his own revolutionary front added to the high voltage campaign in the election.


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