Saina beats former World Champion to enter All England Open Badminton Championship Semi Finals
Saina beats former World Champion to enter All England Open Badminton Championship Semi FinalsReuters

The Election Commission of India (ECI) had roped in Olympic medalists Saina Nehwal and MC Mary Kom as its new National Icons to enhance voters' participation in elections.

The new titles given to Nehwal and Kom, both of whom are the first female national icons to support ECI, has pushed them into the league of other existing national icons, namely former president A P J Abdul Kalam and Indian cricket captain M S Dhoni.

The two sportswomen will now help with ECI's strategy to fill the gap in youth participation and the gender gap in electoral participation in several areas.

Nehwal hails from Andhra Pradesh while Kom is a Manipuri. In collaboration with Doordarshan, the Chief Electoral Officers of Andhra Pradesh and Manipur have organized promotional messages from these icons in audio-visual formats.

The ready to use material were sent on Monday to various states for promoting voter turnout and registration. Messages from Nehwal and Kom will be used in Gujarat and all subsequent elections for enhancing voter turnout. There are also separate messages from them for promoting the enrolment of voters in various states and union territories, particularly among youth and women. 

Apart from Nehwal and Kom, many celebrities from various walks of life had lent their sAppoints ervices to the ECI in the last 12 general elections to the states as part of the commission's Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Participation programme (SVEEP).

This had subsequently resulted in a consistently higher turnout in recent Assembly elections and a few historic turnouts as well. The ECI has also been getting enthusiastic support of a range of governmental and non-governmental organisations, civil society and the media in enlisting citizen's participation in the electoral process.