Indian state tries pink teddy bears to get women to vote

A women voter receives a pink teddy bear.

Story highlights

  • Indian state of Goa has pink polling stations for women
  • Some encourage the campaign while others deem it sexist

New Delhi (CNN)During Indian elections, voters usually go home with an ink-stained finger -- a measure that was introduced to prevent voter fraud.

In the coastal state of Goa, however, some voters went home with an extra gift: a pink teddy bear.
    In a bid to encourage women to vote in the state assembly elections, some polling stations handed out the plush toys.
    Voters display their ink-stained fingers -- a measure that was introduced to prevent voter fraud.
    In each of the state's 40 constituencies, a pink polling station, staffed by women also dressed in the color, gave out the bears.
    "The pink polling stations got 2% to 5% percent more voters than in the other regular polling booths," Chief Electoral Officer Kunal, told CNN.
    "Our primary objective was to show that women are as capable and skilful. Some say it is a stereotype but it worked and people liked it."
    Others however criticized the move, deeming it sexist and a waste of money.

    Leveraging women's votes

    As India's smallest state with 1.1 million eligible voters, Goa's Legislative Assembly has just 40 seats but it's set to be a crucial and tight race.
    The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power at both the national level and in the state of Goa, where it's fighting the opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
    AAP was formed in 2012 and went to claim a sweeping victory in the Delhi polls just over a year later.
    India's BJP, which has a majority in the national lower house, has long been seeking to expand its numbers in the upper house as well.
    Indian women display their election identity cards outside a polling station, at Chogawan village in the northern Indian state of Punjab on February 4, 2017.
    Yet more work is required when it comes to female representation in the state assembly.
    Only two of the state's 40 legislators are female, and out of 251 candidates running for election, only 19 are women.
    Polls also opened Saturday in the north Indian state of Punjab where 78.6% of the 19 million eligible voters came out to exercise their vote, fractionally higher than the 78.2% turnout recorded in 2012.
    Goa and Punjab are the first two of five states to hold assembly elections over the next month. Some 161 million are eligible to vote.
    Voting in India's most populated state, Uttar Pradesh, will take place in seven phases on February 11, 14, 19, 23, 27 and March 4 and 8.

    Litmus test

    Many view these elections as a litmus test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP government.
    Modi's surprise move came in a bid to curb corruption and tax evasion but his critics say it has had an adverse effect on the poor and subsistence farmers who depend heavily on cash.
    Votes across all states will be counted on March 11.