Mumbai: Mumbai, which is infamous for its low voter turnout, seems to have bucked the trend this time as four of its six Lok Sabha constituencies recorded more than 50 per cent turnout till 5 pm Monday.
The city has narrowly crossed the 50 per cent mark only in two Lok Sabha elections so far since 1991 — in 1998 it recorded 50.4 per cent turnout and in 2014 it clocked 51.6 per cent turnout.
This election too, the trend was expected to be similar because of summer vacations in schools, the scorching heat, the lack of 2014 election frenzy and, most importantly, the long weekend.
But, according to the official figures, till 5 pm, Mumbai North recorded 54.72 per cent turnout, the highest among all the six constituencies. Mumbai North West clocked 50.44 per cent turnout, Mumbai North East 52.3 per cent and Mumbai South Central 51.53 per cent.
Mumbai South and Mumbai North Central, which include some of the city’s most posh areas, recorded below 50 per cent turnout with 48.23 per cent and 49.39 per cent, respectively.
Pratap Asbe, a political commentator, said if the turnout was substantially higher than the previous elections, it could hint at an anti-incumbency sentiment.
“There is definitely no wave like the last time, but a similar turnout to 2014, or even marginally higher, does not give away much about what the voter could be thinking. If it’s status quo, we will have to wait and watch,” he said.
Fewer voters than in 2014
Even as Mumbai’s voter turnout seems to be close to the 2014 turnout, if not more, there has also been a drop in the actual number of voters in the list.
Mumbai has 96.39 lakh voters now as compared to 98.93 lakh in 2014, as the state election office pruned the list in the last five years, deleting names that appeared twice and removing voters who are dead or have moved out of the city. At the same time, names of new voters were registered.
During the Mumbai civic polls in 2017, the number of voters in the city stood at 91.8 lakh and the city registered a record 55.28 per cent voter turnout, the highest in 25 years.
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Campaigns to increase voter turnout
Candidates as well as citizens have been trying to reach out to voters to create awareness and increase voter turnout.
For example, The Times of India reported, a group of youngsters stood at Mumbai’s toll plazas at the city’s borders, reminding people heading out of the city to return on 29 April to vote.
Former AAP leader and activist Mayank Gandhi and his team of activists had organised a ‘Vote kar, ungli dikha’ (Vote and show your finger) campaign in the city. The campaign included announcements on all suburban railway platforms of the Western and Central Railways, street plays in different parts of the city and also involving Mumbai’s famous dabbawalas to spread the word.
Candidates too walked the extra mile to connect with the city’s youth. Priya Dutt, Congress candidate from Mumbai North Central, and BJP’s Mumbai president Ashish Shelar interacted with youngsters at Khar Social, a pub in Mumbai’s western suburbs.
Sanjay Nirupam, Congress candidate for Mumbai North, held a dedicated session with Mumbai’s millennials in his constituency to understand what they expect from their representative.
Shiv Sena’s Rahul Shewale, contesting from Mumbai South Central, had a rap song on him composed by two ‘gully boys’ from Mumbai’s sprawling slum Dharavi, while two candidates from Mumbai South — Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant and Congress’ Milind Deora — had engaged in a public debate at a ‘Know your candidate’ session organised by south Mumbai residents.
Turnout could have been higher if polling was on a weekday
Mayank Gandhi said, “This time there is no wave or enthusiasm like that of 2014. But, the feedback that I have been getting is that the turnout could be similar to last election, which is not a bad thing. People have been talking about having to stand in queues for one or two hours.”
He, however, said the turnout would have been definitely higher if polling day fell mid-week.
Shyama Kulkarni, trustee of AGNI, a Mumbai-based group of social activists, said, “We had appealed to the Election Commission to have polls on a Wednesday because long weekends dent the turnout. Schools are shut for the summers and parents have already made vacation plans.”
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The voting was flawless, concluding with the VVPAT displaying the symbol. The ECI should take this opportunity to lay all fears to rest. If some people want a larger number of paper trails to be counted, no harm in a brief delay taking place. A huge leap forward from ballot boxes and paper votes.
Hum ne apna farz nibhaya.
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