File photo of a waiter serving diet At a restaurant in Bangalore. , Photo credits: K. Murali Kumar
Despite the city’s residents being actively involved in civic activism, Bengaluru has long been plagued by low voter turnout. In the 2013 and 2018 assembly elections, the voter turnout was 62% and 57% respectively. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the numbers fell even further with a voter turnout of 54.1%.
Various factors contributed to the issue, including errors in the voter list, names of deceased voters remaining on the voter list, and urban indifference to the political system. But this year, the city’s hospitality sector is hoping to change that.
Restaurants in the city are offering free food and movie tickets, along with making oral pleas to encourage voters. This comes despite an order by the BBMP to ban hotels and restaurants from making any kind of offers to voters during the elections. It is expected that with this initiative more and more people will come to the polling booths and participate in the democratic process.
On May 10, many establishments will put up posters encouraging diners to vote. PC Rao, president of the Bruhat Bangalore Hotels Association, which has over 4,000 restaurants and hospitality chains under its ambit, said, “As compared to Karnataka, the voter turnout of Bengaluru is really dismal, so we have appealed to all our hoteliers and staff members Requested to get out on the town and vote as it is our duty.
Krishnaraj SP, owner of Nisarga Grand Hotel, said, ‘We will serve for free. Khali Benne DosaJuice and Mysore Pak Tomorrow voters, all they have to do is show their inked finger as proof that they have exercised their right to vote.
Nisarg has been running such campaigns since the 2018 assembly elections. Around 3,900 voter-clients took advantage of his offer then, while the number increased to 5,100 in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This year, Krishnaraj is preparing his kitchen to feed around 8,000 voters. “If I get more than 8,000, I will be even happier. It would mean that our campaign to ensure that the people of Bengal come out of their homes and cast their votes has been successful,” he says.
Along with free food, Nisarga will also provide free movie tickets for a Kannada film to the first 100 voters who come to the restaurant after voting. According to Rao, “The association has requested the restaurants in the city to take the initiative and encourage their customers to vote.”
In addition to restaurants, Wonderla Amusement Park in the city will offer a 15% discount on tickets to customers who show their voting IDs at the park. “As responsible citizens, voting is our duty towards the nation. This initiative is our small step towards encouraging Bengalis to vote. Voters can avail this offer till May 12.
Meanwhile, Vasudev Adigas, a leading QSR chain in Bengaluru, which owns several darshinis, are being cautious and have decided to cancel their voter campaign plan following instructions from BBMP. Ajay Khanna, business head of Vasudev Adigas, said, “We were planning to encourage voting in the city, but we have canceled that plan following a directive from the BBMP.”