NEW DELHI: Ahead of Lok Sabha elections due this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday hailed the Election Commission (EC) for its efficiency in conducting polls and urged voters to exercise their right to vote.

In his first monthly Mann ki Baat radio address this year, PM Modi said that those who do not use their democratic right to vote should feel pain for not exercising it. He also asked eminent personalities to campaign and spread awareness on voter registration and casting vote. His comments come after President Ram Nath Kovind in his address on the eve of the country’s 70th Republic Day, urged voters to perform the 'sacred act' of voting.

“There is an important institution which is integral to our democracy and is older than our Republic. I am referring to the Election Commission of India. The scale of Indian elections astonished the entire world. The efficiency with which the Election Commission conducts these elections makes every Indian proud. There is every effort to ensure that every registered voter gets an opportunity to vote. I admire the EC for its efforts to strengthen our democracy. I also salute the state election commissions and other forces associated with the polling process which ensure free and fair elections," Modi said during his 30-minute address.

PM Modi’s comment comes at a time when several opposition parties have raised questions against the EC for using electronic voting machines (EVMs) as there are allegations that they can be hacked. The commission, however, has maintained that EVMs are foolproof.

“This year Lok Sabha elections will be held in our country. This will be the first time when those born in the 21 Century will exercise their right to vote. It is time for them to take this responsibility on their shoulders and they are now going to be a part of India’s decision making process. I urge all the youth who are eligible to vote to register themselves as voters. Everyone must see this as an important milestone and there should be a sense that ‘voting is our duty’," he said.

Ahead of exams, Modi said he will hold a session on the 29th of January to speak to students, teachers and parents. Referring to the youth, he said that India's space programme has been possible due to young scientists of the country.