Friday, May 1, 2009

Mumbai Voting 2009

Mumbai defies Jaago Re and all other voter awareness campaigns to record the lowest turnout in four General Elections. Evidently, the four-day weekend too good to resist

Rahul Bose went to people’s homes, the Jaago Re mascot caught people at malls and cinema halls to shame them into voting while newspapers dedicated reams to egg the electorate.

But couldn’t-care-less Mumbai preferred to enjoy the extended weekend, recording the lowest turnout in the last four General Elections at 44.16 per cent.

South Mumbai, the constituency where everyone expected spirited voting following the terror attacks of 26/11 and where people made the maximum noise about governance - recorded just 43.33 per cent; a turnout that is even less than 2004.

The last time the city saw a turnout of over 50 per cent was 11 years ago when the Atal Behari Vajpayee government lost the confidence motion by a single vote. It was believed that the decent turnout was due to sympathy for BJP’s poet Prime Minister.

The 26/11 tragedy, however, was an even bigger issue and, therefore, was expected to bring out angry voters.

In fact, various NGOs such as Praja Foundation, Jaago Re and Agni were appealing to this very outraged demographic to vote in big way.

But, what went wrong?

Some say it was because over eight lakh people from Mumbai and Thane were away, enjoying annual vacations at native places, or attending marriages of relatives, April-May being the season to wed.

Mumbai Congress president Kripashankar Singh said that a large number of migrant voters from Uttar Pradesh had left for summer vacations, which impacted the turnout figures.

"Youth did not come out, and the heat was a major factor. The opposition was gung-ho over 26/11, but my reading has been that it was not an election issue," he added.

Subhash Desai, spokesperson for the Sena echoed Kripashanker's views when he blamed the summer vacations.

The NGOs, however, have a different take on the issue.

Nitai Mehta of Praja Foundation said it could possibly be because of an uninspiring leadership.

"I just don't know why voters did not respond in the right manner. Perhaps, today, we do not have leaders who inspire people to vote. During the 1977 elections, the voter turnout in South Mumbai was 62 per cent. Or is it that people prefer to vote only after a major crisis? Maybe it's also general apathy," he said.

Nationalist Congress Party's Mumbai president Sachin Ahir, however, blamed poll officials who insisted on a photo identity card, even after citizens produced their ration card.

"The officers insisted on head of the family being present in the case of ration cards, so naturally many voters did not go back," he said.

By -Mumbai Mirror

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