Will Mumbai cross the 50% mark in polls?

Will the city be able to cross the 50-% mark on Monday, as it votes for the Assembly elections?

Between the 1999 and 2009 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, Mumbai’s voter turnout was in the 40s. It was only in 2014, that the Modi wave and a politically-charged atmosphere got Mumbai to cross the 50-% mark. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Mumbai registered a 51.59% turnout and a 51.21% turnout in the Assembly elections held the same year. The city registered its highest-ever turnout in the recent Lok Sabha elections with 55.23% people coming out to vote. This was the highest polling percentage in three decades in a city known for its political apathy.

But political analysts and activists think Mumbai will not be able to achieve a similar feat for reasons including a significantly less-charged political atmosphere, a three-day holiday and the rain dampening the spirit.

Sitaram Shelar, director at the Centre for Promoting Democracy, said the enthusiasm on-ground is generally low. “It’s almost like people have given up. There is no activity on-ground,” said Shelar.

Political analyst Surendra Jondhale also said that Mumbaiites’ disappointment can result in cynicism on polling day. “When people are disappointed with the political spectrum, they turn cynical instead of challenging it by voting in large numbers. So I expect limited participation from the city,” Jondhale said.

Citizen activists think the social media can play an important factor as it makes not voting a pretty “uncool” concept. Dhaval Shah, founder of the Lokhandwala-Oshiwara Residents’ Association, has been posting pictures and videos on social media over the past few weeks to get people to vote. “We also have a ‘selfie with inked finger’ contest where we are asking people to post pictures after voting and win prizes. The awareness of voting as a duty has increased over the years because of social media,” Shah said.

Politicians from the leading BJP and Opposition, however, are worried because of the sudden rain in the city and the voting day getting clubbed with the weekend. Nawab Malik, city head of the NCP unit and a candidate from Anushakti Nagar constituency, said, “We are trying our best to make people come out and vote, but the rain can play a spoilsport along with the long weekend.”

Madhav Bhandari, spokesperson of the BJP, said they are fearing an adverse reaction owing to the rain. “We are trying our best though,” Bhandari said.


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