It is now twice in a row for Mumbai. Often criticised for its voter apathy, the country’s financial capital Wednesday ensured another record voter turnout.
An average 53 per cent voting was witnessed across Mumbai’s 36 Assembly segments. Election records indicate Wednesday’s voting percentage is the highest for an Assembly poll since 1967, when a 67.5 per cent turnout was recorded.
Five months ago, the Modi factor had resulted in an average 52.66 per cent turnout for the Lok Sabha polls in Mumbai, which was also a feat not achieved since 1989.
While voters in Gujarati-dominated pockets were the most responsive to during the Lok Sabha polls, the enthusiasm this time was the most palpable among voters in Marathi-dominated areas.
After its 25-year-old alliance with the BJP ended just ahead of the polls, the Shiv Sena had fallen back on its time-tested Marathi “asmita” (self respect) plank for its Assembly poll campaign.
Indian Express reporters who travelled to polling areas dominated by the Gujarati and Marwari community found the excitement visible during LS polls missing among voters this time around.
The highest voter turnout of 59.60 per cent (to be updated) was recorded in the island city’s Wadala Assembly seat, which is a Marathi-speaking heartland. This was nearly 10 per cent higher than the turnout during the 2009 Assembly poll. Other Marathi strongholds in central Mumbai such as Mahim (59.5%), Worli (55.6%), Byculla (55.1%) and Sewri (54.2%) also recorded a high turnout. In suburban Marathi heartlands like Mulund and Bhandup (West), the voting percentage was 57.17 per cent and 56.96 per cent, respectively.
In contrast, voting percentages in Ghatkopar (West) and Ghatkopar (East), where the Gujarati population is sizeable, were 45.77 and 57.03 per cent respectively.
Interestingly, the voter excitement seemed the least in the traditionally high-voting Muslim-dominated areas like Anushakti Nagar (43.57%), Kurla (48.10%), Mankhurd-Shivajinagar (41.08%) and Mumbadevi (49.20%).
Political analysts said that the overall higher voter turnout in Mumbai and low voting percentages in Muslim-dominated segments were indicative of strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the Congress, which currently represents 17 out of the 36 Assembly areas. With the voter in Marathi heartlands more responsive this time, they said it could be advantage Shiv Sena as its attempts to outperform former ally BJP for the number one position in Mumbai.
Shiv Sena legislator Subhash Desai, who is himself seeking re-election from Goregoan in Mumbai (Suburbs), said, “The ‘Marathi Asmita’ issue which we raised had struck a chord with voters. Also, the BJP’s politics of targeting Sena appear to have hurt the voter sentiment. Moreover, Gujarat CM Anandiben Patil urging businessmen in Mumbai to come to Gujarat too did not go down well with Marathi-speaking voters. They came out in big numbers to make themselves heard.”
However, BJP leader Vinod Tawde, a candidate from Borivali, said, “There was Marathi-Gujarati divide. People of Maharashtra wanted changed and voted for it. Exit polls are predicting BJP’s victory.”
NCP’s national spokesperson and sitting MLA from Anushakti Nagar Nawab Malik re asoned, “This election has not been a party-based, but a candidate-based one. In areas where there was a strong candidate, the turnout has been good.”
At present, the Congress holds 17 seats in the city, Raj Thackeray-led MNS six, BJP 5, Shiv Sena 4, NCP 3 and Samajwadi Party 1.
While a clear division in Marathi-speaking votes between the Sena and the MNS had resulted in Congress’s gain in 2009, political observers said the MNS factor has ebbed substantially since.
Turnaround in Malabar Hill stays, turnout at 53.34%
The voting percentage in the upscale Malabar Hill Assembly constituency, as recorded by the city collector’s office, stood at 53.34 per cent, up from 45.25 per cent during the 2009 Assembly elections. In this year’s Lok Sabha elections too, the voting percentage here was 53.68%.
Overall, the south Mumbai parliamentary constituency, traditionally known for its low voter turnout, recorded 52.4 per cent voting percentage Wednesday, a significant rise from 43.6 per cent in 2009 state polls. Susieben Shah, Congress candidate from Malabar Hill said the voters were getting more aware now.
Tabassum Barnagarwala & Pallavi Ail