Darjeeling: The cuddly red panda is the official mascot of the 2014 Lok Sabha election in the Darjeeling parliamentary constituency.
Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar constituencies go to the hustings in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections in the state on Thursday. As many as 6,033,310 voters in the four seats will decide the political fate of 47 candidates in the fray.
Posters of animated figures of the chestnut hued red panda - an endangered species endemic to the area - attired in variety of colourful, traditional costumes of the ethnic groups of the district, flank the administrative offices as well as public places in the Darjeeling parliamentary seat which has 14,22,809 voters.
"Since it is endangered and is synonymous with the area, it was chosen as the mascot. Logos and posters have been created with messages like `Let`s get united to vote`. The animations are done up in local costumes like that of the Lepchas, Sherpas, Gorkhas etc and have become quite popular," Pushpak Roy, election officer-in-charge in Darjeeling, told a news agency.
The campaign has been extended to merchandise like eco-friendly bags and mugs to generate environmental awareness as well as voter participation.
The constituency has seven model polling stations and four booths managed exclusively by women out of a total of 1,829 polling stations.
Maximum number of candidates is from Darjeeling which is the smallest constituency of the first phase.
The Tangta Primary School, located 145 km away from the distribution centre, is the most distant poll centre in the district.
"The enthusiasm is so high that despite the distance and tough terrain, the residents will come to vote," said Roy, adding the challenge is to attract the urban youth as they are busy with their career and other activities.
"They are most reluctant while the rural population is very enthusiastic. So we tied-up with Red FM in Siliguri to create an interest among young urban crowd," he said.