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Will city turn the corner in voter turnout?

Mumbaikars have been notorious for poor turnout in poll.

Written by Stuti Shukla | Mumbai | Published: January 1, 2014 12:15:44 am

Agent of Change: The City Voter

A Mumbaikar has never really been a voting enthusiast. More so,if he has a south Mumbai address. But this year,the birth of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led to a super turnout in the country’s political capital. So,will India’s financial capital stage a turnaround and drive voters to the polling booths? Or will tedium take over the better of their spirits,like always. For instance,despite a massive public outcry after the 26/11 terror attacks in 2008,the voter turnout in Mumbai remained abysmal at less than 44 per cent in the Lok Sabha elections that followed four months later.

With the city accounting for six Lok Sabha seats and 36 of the total 288 Assembly seats in the state,Mumbaikars are naturally sought after voters. And though the city has been notorious for poor voter turnouts,there is optimism among activists and psephologists this time around.

Price rise that directly affects the middle-class and the corruption exposés have prodded voters across the country,especially in urban areas,to come out and vote. “Pockets such as Greater Kailash in New Delhi that always had low turnout suddenly saw 70 per cent people casting their votes – an AAP affect. We can hope something similar in south Mumbai where voters have always shunned elections,” says Ajit Ranade,economist with AV Birla group.

Ranade’s optimism is borne out by official data. In a drive undertaken by the collector over the last 18 months,6.28 lakh new voters have been registered in suburbs,taking the total number of registered voters to over 73 lakh. Similarly,1.08 lakh new voters were added to the 26 lakh voters in the island city in the past one year. “The quantum of voter registrations,especially first-time voters,is much higher this time around,” says C V Oak,island city collector. Moreover,the deletion of 12 lakh ‘extra’ names from electoral rolls will also naturally bump up the voter-turnout percentage.

“The situation of Mumbai and Maharashtra is different from Delhi,Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh. Apart from AAP,the MNS factor also needs to be taken into account. It is difficult to predict who will benefit from an increased turnout in Mumbai,but anti-incumbency is likely to benefit the BJP. If AAP is able to deliver on some of its promises in Delhi,the situation may tilt in its favour,” says Dr Uttara Sahastrabuddhe,political analyst and professor of political science at Mumbai University. She adds that apart from Mumbai suburbs,Thane,Kalyan and Navi Mumbai are also expected to see a higher turnout.

However,there are others who feel that the AAP effect in Mumbai will be limited. BJP leader Vinod Tawde says AAP was a success in Delhi because Anna Hazare’s agitation there was a roaring success. “Anna’s agitation in Mumbai lacked steam. Moreover,AAP’s face in Mumbai is Mayank Gandhi,who is a builder. The anti-incumbency vote and increased turnout is bound to benefit the BJP. The Mumbai voter is going to vote against an inefficient UPA government. The Modi factor works to our advantage too,” he says.

Senior Congress leaders admit that Congress’s failure in Delhi was a direct result of public anger against corruption. Asked if the Adarsh scam will act as a trigger prompting people in Mumbai to come out and cast a protest vote,MP Milind Deora says,“The Adarsh housing scam involves names from all political parties and not just the Congress. I do believe more people will vote in Mumbai this year,mostly on the basis of the candidate’s capability more than any other factor.”

Mock tale

Alison Saldanha & Sharvari Patwa

Sitaram Kunte: We are planning an e-tendering system to curb corruption. The contractors’ lobby needs to be broken to have better roads…

Sunil Prabhu: Before you suggest e-tendering and transparency,why don’t you learn to keep your files in place before they go missing? More importantly,tumhi penguins kadhi aannar aahat (when are you bringing penguins)! People see bad roads in other parts of India,but penguins! That they will only see in aamchi Mumbai. Please hurry up – it should arrive before our rhino Shiva procreates in Delhi.

Kunte: Sir,all missing files have been traced. Many of the lost files have been found under the seats of civic officers. Unfortunately,BMC has so much to do it takes a while to remember what officials are sitting on. By the way,have you noticed how much progress we have made on the Mithi River Revival Project recently?

Prabhu: Bah! All these projects with ‘big words’ may fool the press,but not me. What happened to junior Thackeray saheb’s proposal to spruce up Mumbai’s night life? You know that’s important…

Kunte: Saheb’s proposal for 24×7 restaurants is our top priority. We also understand midnight cravings. Even nutritionists recommend that we eat every two hours. The young votes are with you on this,sir.

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