From senior citizens outnumbering young voters in several parts of the city and people and party workers getting hassled about a low voter-turnout to debates regarding the perceived Marathi manoos’ vote-swing, the city witnessed a host of episodes as its citizens stepped out to vote Wednesday.
In Mahim, which houses the headquarters of the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), the former’s desperation to win back its once-upon-a-time stronghold was visible. The party had a very high number of its cadre out on the streets, garbed in saffron t-shirts with the party’s symbol, outnumbering those from other parties. They were seen guiding people towards voting centres and helping them find their names on the list. A Sena party worker, who did not wish to be named, said, “The large number of our cadre on roads is not by design. They are volunteers who have chose to come out in large numbers and help.”
The empty polling booths and lanes of Wadala in the second half of the day saw senior citizens from various areas of the small constituency make way to the polling booths along with their grandchildren. Most of the enthusiastic citizens said that the party politics hardly affects them and they look at voting as a means to exercise their rights. “I have exercised my right, now whoever comes to power, should just concentrate on doing good work,” said Ratanchand Pagaria, a resident of Sahakar Colony in Wadala. Pagaria was accompanied by his grandson to the polling booth.
Vishal Salunkhe (24) said that he did not face any confusion even after Sena-BJP and Congress-NCP break-ups. “I was clear that I had to vote for the politician who has helped the people in Wadala,” he added.
The quaint and up-market area of Malabar Hill saw senior citizens coming in cars with their grandchildren, who seemed excited to see the process of voting and getting inked. Purshottdas Chandrapota (76), secretary of Divyalok building in Malabar, had requested the Election Commission to set up a polling station inside the building because 80 per cent of its residents are senior citizens. “The second and third generation residents have all settled down in foreign countries, which is probably why one would not find too many youngsters voting,” Chandrapota said.
One could count few youngsters who stepped out to vote in the vicinity. “I did ask my batchmates if they would come out to vote, but they said that they do not really care,” said Yash Mehta (20), an architecture student.
As compared to Lok Sabha elections, the Gujarati dominated areas of Borivali and Kandivali lacked the festive atmosphere this time. The Marathi pockets of the same constituency, however, seemed more enthusiastic as the voters turned out in high spirits. It was again the senior citizens who thronged the polling booths in the constituency and were ecstatic to cast their votes and walk out within a few minutes instead of waiting in long queues.
“The split between Shiv Sena and BJP is heartbreaking but (BJP’s Vinod) Tawde is from Konkan,” said a smiling Sitaram Kamat. The 76-year-old came to vote with his wife Urmila (68) in Borivali.
The upscale neighbourhood of Bandra (West), comprising Pali Hill and Bandstand areas, saw a tepid response with just 39.47 per cent voting upto 3 pm, rising to 48.62 per cent by 5 pm. The highest voter turnout was observed at St Aloysius High School polling centre near Lilavati Hospital, which had 19 polling booths, with long winding queues of people from the neighbouring reclamation area.
This election, the returning officer had disallowed NGOs and ALMs in the constituency to ferry senior citizens from their houses to the polling centres, as they claimed it could amount to bribery. “We have received complaints of several NGOs having a political inclination. As we cannot ascertain if the ferrying NGO is influencing voters, we decided to disallow them from bringing seniors to the polling centres,” said assistant returning officer Virdhawal Khade, Bandra (West).
Polling booths across the Gujarati pockets of Ghatkopar (East) witnessed a low voter turnout as compared to the Lok Sabha elections. While the average voter turnout in Ghatkopar (East) stood at 41.70 per cent, the turnout in the western part of the suburbs, which has more slum pockets, stood at 40.6 per cent.
Sheetal Rahul Shah (38), a housewife and resident of Tilak Nagar in Ghatkopar, said, “If people cannot vote, then they should not complain about lack of governance for the next five years. It is surprising that even at 3 pm, I did not have to stand in the queue given that we had witnessed a huge turnout just three months ago.”
The most worried were party workers found sitting near the polling centres. “Maybe the break-up of both alliances has affected voters and they are confused or maybe it’s just the heat,” remarked Subhash Patel, a BJP supporter.
In this constituency again, young voters were missing in action on voting day in Juhu, with more senior citizens turning up at the polling stations. A handful of people were seen entering the polling station located at Utpal Sanghvi School Wednesday morning. Amarnath Kapoor (82) was walking with the help of a three-wheeled walker. “He never misses voting,” said his daughter-in-law Anju Kapoor.
Madhur Kanth (76) and his wife Yogini (72) said that they would not have missed exercising their right to vote under any circumstances as they walked out. The few young voters that were visible had either come with their parents or grandparents. “We need change as India is lagging behind,” said Yashvi, a first-time voter.