Issues pertaining to cluster development, “a corruption-free and non-communal government” were on the priority list of voters in one of the oldest markets of Mumbai South’s Bhendi Bazaar on Thursday. Despite a large number of people complaining about their names missing from the voters’ list, the area saw a decent turnout later in the day.
“I voted for change and a government that thinks about betterment of society,” said first- time voter 19-year old Ismail Shaikh. Shaikh’s sister Jahanara, 23, who was optimistic about a large voters’ turnout this election, felt people have become more socially aware. “If we vote, we have a right to complain. By using the Right to Information Act, we can claim our right and by electing an able government, which can try keeping the builders’ involvement minimal,” she said.
Ashok, 48, and Akshita, 39, Jaitapkar, on the other hand, said residents dissatisfied with the current government’s “inept show of governance” in the vicinity. “The government should think about looking at elementary issues like phone connections. We recently went to get our MTNL line transferred to our new flat but the officials refused saying notorious elements destroy them. Leaders should think about solving such issues,” said Ashok.
Septugenarian A F Kothawala felt that the there “several complications” with state government’s cluster development policy. “The government we vote into power should clear such obstacles,” he said.
Upmarket SoBo came out, for once
Cars kept lining up at the entrances of polling centres in Malabar Hill area blocking traffic outside polling centres in Malabar Hill as chauffeurs queued up to drop off and pick up voters in the Mumbai South constituency. Until 6 pm, the three polling centres Gopi Birla Memorial Public School, Mangal Punj at Malabar Hill and Geeta Gurh near Metro cinema surveyed, the voter turnouts were around 51.01 per cent.
In Malabar Hill, voters seemed eager to vote against the incumbent government, whom they blamed for corruption and inflation. “Corruption affects our businesses and it is better to vote for a less corrupt and more business-friendly government, said RD Shah, a diamond merchant.
While these centres saw a steady stream of middle-aged voters and eager young voters, senior citizens also came out to vote in significant numbers, according to the polling officers at these centres. While 92-year-old Shardhaben Shah voted as she wanted to exercise her constitutional right, 78-year-old Himmat Shah voted because he believes politicians ‘should improve’.
Need for better safety arrangements for Mumbai women drove Surekha Gandhi,61, and her family in Vile Parle all the way to South Mumbai, where they are registered.
38.42% voter turnout at Geeta Gurh, polling station 83
61.16% voter turnout at Mangal Punj, polling station 237
53.46% voter turnout at Gopi Birla Memorial Public School, polling station 253
Marathi heartland of Dadar, Parel & Muslim pockets in Mahim
In the ‘Marathi Manoos heartland’ of Dadar-Parel, the tussle between the Shiv Sena and MNS was on display with both parties mobilising workers on a large scale to bring voters to polling booths.
The polling booth at Shardhashram Vidyamandir in Dadar (West), two km from both Shiv Sena Bhavan and Krishna Kunj – the residence of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray – witnessed a healthy turnout of voters.
The Dadar-Parel area has seen a fight for supremacy between the MNS and the Shiv Sena. However this time around the scales seemed to be tilted in the Sena’s favour.
“We realised that the vote that we gave the the MNS ended up actually helping the Congress. This time around the people of the area have wisened up. We will be voting for the Shiv Sena to usher in a change in the centre,” said Mohan Joshi, a resident of Shivaji Park.
The mill land heartland of Parel also saw a strong turnout. At the BMC Gujarati School at Parel Bhoiwada chawl, residents from the area turned up in sizeable numbers and were seen braving the mid-afternoon heat to line up and vote. Some young chawl residents seemed to have been swayed by ‘Raj Thackeray’s charisma’ and claimed that they would vote for MNS as it ‘symbolised dynamism’.
Meanwhile, in the Muslim pockets of Mahim, voters, including women, turned out in substantial numbers by evening. “We have been told by our family that this time it is important for us to vote because of the threat to the community,” said Sakina Shaikh, who stays near Mahim Dargah. (Zeeshan Shaikh)
Diverse mix in Dharav
Amid the usual cacophony of people and vehicles, the shops going about their business, children frolicking outside 180-square-feet shanties, and aromas of curries being cooked wafting through slums, Mumbai South Central’s Dharavi was a silent battleground on Thursday.
At the four polling centres that Newsline visited, there were clear pro-Congress and anti-Congress sentiments as everyone from Dharavi’s residents — natives, south Indians, north Indians, Muslims, Christians and so on — queued up to vote. The anti-incumbency factor mostly stemmed from the stalled Dharavi redevelopment project.
“We want better, bigger homes. I don’t think any party is going to do us any good, but we should at least give others a chance,” said Dinkar Waghchaure of Kala Killa.
Subhash Chandran, originally from Tamil Nadu, said, “The sense that I get is that people want a change now.”
Residents, mostly from the Muslim community, who seemed keen on electing incumbent MP Eknath Gaikwad for a third term were mostly those who had been voting for Congress for generations. Mairunissa Shaikh, a housewife, said, “We always vote for the Congress. It is a safe option.”
Till 5 pm, of 2,33,148 voters registered across all the 29 voting centres of Dharavi, the turnout was 46.32 percent. — (Manasi Phadke)
Gurudas Kamat, the sitting MP from Mumbai North West constituency, lost two votes as fellow Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam and his wife Geeta were unable to cast their votes. Residents of Lokhandwala, the Nirupams were to vote at 5 pm but could not as they were travelling in the northern suburbs. “There was communal tension in Malwani, Malad and I had to stay there,” said Nirupam. Later, he called the election
officer in Lokhandwala to ask if the polling time could be extended by a few minutes, but the officer told him that voting had to stop at 6 pm sharp.
A common snake skink (a type of lizard that resembles a snake) sparked a minor scare at Hindu School polling centre near Banganga in Mumbai South. The skink was noticed just outside the polling centre and police officers near the centre promptly called up reptile rescuer Nithin Valmiki around 2.30pm. The officials kept track of the reptile’s movements from a distance, only to be told that the reptile was a harmless skink, which was rescued within minutes.
AN ENTERPRISING LOT
Known for their gusto, especially at public events, it was not surprising to see how members of the Gujarati community in Mumbai came up with innovative solutions to overcome hassles while voting. This was evident at Dhanji Devshi Municipal School in the Gujarati-dominated Ghatkopar (East), where 6,481 people were registered to cast their votes on Thursday. More than 70 people were seen queuing up outside two of the five polling booths around 12.30 pm, many of them sweating and criticising the election authorities for ‘poor management’. Suddenly, a woman intervened and arranged for four big pedestal fans, which were placed strategically near two of the polling booths, bringing much-needed relief to voters, some of whom had been standing in queue for two hours.
A ‘FAMOUS’ vote gone
Singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya was among a handful of Lokhandwala residents who returned home dismayed at not finding his name on the electoral roll. But he didn’t give up without a fight. Assistant zone officer S S Patnaik recounted, “He (Bhattacharya) said, ‘Don’t you know who I am? I’m the man who sings Kishore Kumar songs!’. I replied I’m a Kishore da fan but don’t know who you are.” Patnaik said he added, “If you want the police to know who you are for the wrong reasons, be my guest”. The singer backed off, crestfallen.
The appearance of actor Varun Dhawan at St. Joseph’s School, Juhu, caused a bit of a flutter. Dhawan obliged those who spotted him and posed for pictures while exhorting people to vote. Just as he was about to leave, a girl rushed out of a swanky cafe from across the road, and shot a selfie with the actor on her iPhone. Dhawan asked if she had voted. “I’m only 16,” she giggled.
Business community makes it count, Marathi votes split
The polling booth (Sant Tukaram Salvation Mission School) in Malad saw voters queueing up as early as 7 am, where voters from Gujarati and Marathi dominated areas in and around SV Road were listed to vote. In the queue were two Gujarati housewives discussing how they were fed up with rising prices and how they wanted it to change.
At a polling station in SV Road, Borivali, where the business community has its largest presence, Vali Mulji, 90, was among those who had come out to vote. “I never miss out on the chance to vote. Every single vote counts,” he said. Mulji, however, seemed not so impressed by the Modi factor. “I voted for the candidate who I feel is right for the constituency,” he said.
But Tural Shah, 19, a first-time voter, said, “Modi deserved a chance.” Rahul Suryavanshi, 26, who suffers from cerebral palsy, said he too voted for Modi’s party. “If people like me can come out to vote, I am sure it would inspire others to vote too,” he said. The voting percentage in polling booths at the station had touched 40 per cent around 1 pm.
Voting at a centre in the pro-Congress belt of Ganpat Patil Nagar in Borivali was around 35 per cent at 1.30 pm. Congress candidate Sanjay Nirupam was egging party workers to bring out more voters to the booth. In Marathi-dominated polling stations at Magathane, which had voted for the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena last time, Alka Chavan, 62, agreed with the vote for change rhetoric, whereas Pramod Dhulap, 56, and wife Geeta felt the Congress had done better work in the area.
At a polling centre in a BJP-dominated belt at Charkop, the voting had crossed 50 per cent by 4 pm.
Prashant Kandarkar, 40, said that it was the Modi factor that had brought voters out to vote.
‘It’s important that we vote’
Hasina Begum, 83, does not even remember how long she has been voting. “Voting is important for me. Although I do not know much about the candidates, I voted,” said the Malwani resident, whose son helped her to the booth.
In Malwani, Muslims turned out in large numbers. The locality has more than 10 lakh slum tenements and chawls. The voting picked up pace only after 3 pm. Voters in the 16 polling centers at Malwani area were mostly employees of small scale industries. “I am voting because I think my vote will make a difference,” said Naaz Sayyed, a final year B.Com student.
The main polling booths, such as including Aman School, Urdu School, andTownship School at Malwani gate number 8, were considered sensitive as they saw large number of voters from both the Hindu and Muslim community. By 6 pm, the voter turnout in Mumbai North rose to 52 per cent. (by Megha Sood)
Dismal turnout in slums
Behrampada slums of Bandra (East): Aftab Alam and Nasim Khan, were teenagers back when the one-lakh strong population of Behrampada was ravaged by the 1992-93 Bombay riots. However, the memories of petrol bombs being flung from the terrace of a building overlooking the slums, is still vivid. Khan, who is manning the Samajwadi Party’s (SP) stall next to the very same building, admits that for every one vote that has gone from Behrampada to the SP, three have been for the Congress. That their two-term sitting MP Priya Dutt has not done much as is evident from the dusty unpaved roads and the muck-laden drains snaking through the shanties some as high as four storeys. “This frustration is the reason why very few people are stepping out to vote from Behrampada this time as against every other time when there are serpentine queues outside polling stations. Those who have voted have done so with the conscious aim of voting against the BJP,” said Alam. The story repeats itself in the predominantly Muslim slums of Naupada and Garib Nagar, where water mains serve as open-air toilets and railway tracks as playgrounds for children. So it is not surprising when 168-Purshottam High School, which has voters from these areas, has seen only 228 voters of the total 1408 turning up until 3 pm. In nearby Kherwadi, a Shiv Sena stronghold, a 20 ft high ‘OM’ saffron flag hangs at the entrance of the Shivaji Nagar polling booth. Sixty-year old Tara Papda, whose family of seven lives in a 150 sq ft house, says it was unfurled by the youth on Ram Navmi earlier this month before they left for Ayodhya. Papda, a Marwari from Rajastan and a devout Ram worshipper, says that her votes are not dictated by who builds the Ram mandir in Ayodhya. (Shalini Nair)
‘We want safe, secular govt’
Hill road-Turner road, Bandra (w): Till 3pm, the Queen of the suburbs, witnessed a voter turnout of less than 35 per cent and the quiet streets bore little signs of improving it. Many of those who showed up to vote complained of the lack of provisions such as fans, toilets and chairs and some of them left the queues mid-way. At the end of the day, the North-Central constituency recorded 52 per cent voter turn out, which while still low, is 12 per cent higher than it was in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. While there are speculations that two-term sitting MP
Priya Dutt has faced her toughest election yet, many voters of the neighbourhood are still confident of the her returning for a third term. Melissa Fernandes said, “We want a safe, secular government. We should be allowed to criticise the government if there is something we do not like about it, without fear of someone attacking us for it.”
Amrish Sethi, who cast his vote at polling centre 193-197 said, “We had interacted with different party candidates. Voters here have a firm grip of the issues that need to be addressed. People say that residents are fed up of Dutt but I don’t think we have given up on her yet.”
However voter Felix Rumao warily said, “I’ve done my part in voting now I want to see the chosen candidate visit my area more often and do some work. The Congress can’t just show up once every five years and bank on the minority vote. There has to be accountability.” (Alison Saldanha)