PANAJI: Pink teddy bears, may well have a justified a slot on the altar of participatory democracy.
According to the state's top poll official, Kunal, a unique experiment conducted during the February 4 state assembly elections, which involved giving away 600 teddy bears to first-time women voters across Goa, had paid dividends.
The snuggly teddy bears were given to the early-visiting first-time voters in over 40 model polling booths, one in each of the 40 assembly constituencies in Goa, which went to poll on Saturday.
"As a trend, our pink polling stations got two percent more voting than the average polling rate in all the other regular polling booths. People received the idea well," Kunal said.
In the elections conducted on Saturday, voting was conducted in 1,642 polling stations across the state.
According to provisional figures released by the Chief Electoral Officer late on Saturday, Goa saw around 83 per cent voting.
The pink polling booths, in which the teddy bears were given away, appeared to come straight out of a birthday party with a pink pastel theme, with its pink walls, pink balloons, pink table cloths, even with most of the women poll officials wearing pink clothes.
A women's writers had however criticised the giving away of teddy bears and the pink polling booths, claiming it pandered to gender stereotypes. But for most debutant woman voters, receiving a teddy bear from poll officials was a touching gesture.
"We felt good. It was in a way encouraging us to vote," Ameena Alam, a voter from the Colvale legislative assembly constituency in North Goa, who received a teddy bear, told IANS.
Incidentally, first-time male voters also received a gift of appreciation, although much less snuggly, in form of a pen.