For the second time in a row, Mumbai rose above its reputation. Often criticised for the apathy of its voters, the city Wednesday registered an average 53 per cent turnout, its highest for an assembly poll since 1967, when it clocked 67.5 per cent. Five months earlier, Mumbai had a turnout of 52.66 per cent in the Lok Sabha polls, a peak not reached since 1989.
While voters in Gujarati-dominated pockets were the most responsive during the LS polls, the enthusiasm this time was the most palpable in Marathi-dominated belts. After its 25-year-old alliance with the BJP ended, the Shiv Sena had fallen back on its “Marathi self-respect” card for its assembly campaign.
An Indian Express team who travelled to polling areas dominated by the Gujarati and Marwari communities found the excitement of the LS polls missing. It was voters in Marathi-dominated areas who were enthusiastic.
The highest turnout of 59.60 per cent was in the island city’s Wadala, a Marathi-speaking heartland. It was nearly 10 points higher than in 2009. Other Marathi strongholds in central Mumbai such as Mahim, Worli , Byculla and Sewri, and suburban Marathi heartlands such as Mulund and Bhandup, all recorded turnouts in the middle to high 50s.
In Ghatkopar, where the Gujarati population is sizeable, the turnout was 45.77 per cent (West) and 57.03 (East).
Enthusiasm was low in traditionally high-voting Muslim dominated belts such as Anushakti Nagar (43.57 per cent), Kurla (48.10), Mankhurd-Shivajinagar (41.08) and Mumbadevi (49.20).
Political analysts said the trends were indicative of strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the Congress, which currently represents 17 of Mumbai’s 36 seats. They felt the advantage was with the Shiv Sena as its bids to outperform the BJP in Mumbai.
“The Marathi asmita issue we raised struck a chord with voters. Also, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patil urging businessmen to go to Gujarat too did not go down well with Marathi-speaking voters,” said Sena legislator and candidate Subhash Desai.
BJP candidate Vinod Tawde said, “There was a Marathi-Gujarati divide. People of Maharashtra wanted change. Exit polls are predicting BJP’s victory.”