On Monday, the voting began at 7 am for 72 seats across nine states in the fourth phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with PM Modi’s appeal for ‘record voting’ and reports of EVM glitches and clashes from several areas. Mumbai seats, known for low turnout in the Lok Sabha polls, recorded 51.6 per cent voting in 2014, which was an improvement from 41 per cent of 2009. Now, in 2019, the voter turnout is average. There was a lack of josh. In spite of PM Modi’s fancy interviews, Raj Thackeray’s rallies and supporting films with BJP agendas, somewhere the present politics has failed to mesmerise the voters. Mumbai has witnessed a close fight in at least three to four constituencies. In Mumbai South, sitting Sena MP Arvind Sawant faces a tough fight against city Congress President Milind Deora. Mumbai North Central will see a close contest between sitting BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and Congress’s Priya Dutt. Sanjay Dina Patil (NCP) and Manoj Kotak (BJP) are locked in a neck-to-neck fight in Mumbai North East. In Mumbai South Central, Sena MP Rahul Shewale and Congress candidate Eknath Gaikwad are fighting it out. This year Congress earned its share as they have strong contenders. Urmila Matondkar (Congress) has put up a challenge before BJP’s Gopal Shetty who had won the 2014 elections by more than 4.75 lakh votes, but this time it seems to be difficult as Gopal Shetty has aged and he has attracted many controversies in this particular constituency. In Mumbai North West, the fight is between sitting Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar and Congress’s Sanjay Nirupam; here Kirtikar is winning as it’s hardcore right-wingers belt. Another interesting fight would be in Maval, where NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s grandnephew Parth is locked in an electoral battle with sitting Sena MP Shrirang Barne, Parth may win because the kind of money spent here can achieve anything. Congress had a lack of influential campaigning and an efficient organisational set-up in Mumbai, while its ally NCP does not have any presence in the city. This would help Sena-BJP win most of the seats in Mumbai. However, their alliance is likely to suffer more losses in rural areas and to make up for that, the focus was on urban seats.
In West Bengal, where the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress is facing its toughest challenge against the Bharatiya Janata Party; BJP candidate Babul Supriyo’s car was vandalised and there were also reports of a clash between Trinamool workers and security personnel in the state, where eight seats are voting today. Still, Banerjee would always remain the choice of locals. In phase three, one person had died in political clashes while the car of CPI(M) candidate Md Salim was attacked in Islampur during the second round. The one issue, that affects Mumbai, India’s financial capital and home to 22 million residents (official figures), is that it is home for the undocumented millions who are deprived of electoral representation. And this repeats, year after year, owing to a flaw in the electoral model. The Lok Sabha elections of 2019, about 35,000 of the city’s rag-pickers — mostly Tamil women — are expected to travel back to their villages along Tamil Nadu’s coast to exercise their franchise following fervent calls from their families back home. Moreover, even as WhatsApp messages and posts in social media underline the women’s sense of independence and ‘freedom of choice’ to do so, fact remains that they do not exercise any electoral muscle over the powers that affect them directly in Mumbai itself. Issues of water supply, housing, sanitation, and safety still matter of concern, local political party union to fight for their rights, but there is nobody to stand by these rag pickers.
The Tamils are members of the De-notified Tribe (DNTs). Like them, the Pardhis, Banjaras and the Waghris also form a sizeable lot in Mumbai. The Sassoon Dock, Mumbai’s prized wet dock, itself employs the service of about 25,000 Banjara women to clean prawns on a daily basis and live in nearby slums. Apart from that, the Pardhis who live on the streets in Mumbai easily number around a lakh in the city and have Aadhaar Cards, PAN cards, and Driving Licenses but no Voters’ Cards. The leader admitted that in western and north Maharashtra, the opposition has posed a serious challenge. Nandurbar, Dhule, Maval, and Dindori are the seats that can witness a reversal of results. Nandurbar, Dindori have significant presence of tribal voters who are unhappy with the ruling parties over reservation issues. BJP-Sena will have an edge over the opposition in MMR it won’t retain all seats. It would not be a cakewalk for the ruling combine, as there is no Modi wave this time. It may lose a couple of seats, including Mumbai South and North East, while the margin in other seats will reduce. Congress could not give its 100 per cent and failed to organise rallies by Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi and this will affect them badly. Congress leader hoping for victory in at least 10 of the 17 seats, they may win at least six seats, including Dhule, Nandurbar, while NCP has better chances of winning Mumbai North East, both seats in Nashik and Maval. Election results can bring the truth to open but till then if we have to sum up this time voting, we can clearly see, the lack of josh and more of the jar to the polling booth.
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