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Reasons behind poor turnout

#GetInked was trending high on Twitter in Mumbai section whereas #mumbaivotes was the top trend in India’s trending list. However, less than 35 per cent voters in Maximum City had reached polling booths to vote in the general election till 3 PM. None of the polling booths had any facilities for voters, it was hot summer and people were standing out for hours but there was no water, no sheds. We can’t blame Mumbaikars for poor turnout; they were abused by authorities time and again. Member of Parliaments from Mumbai have neglected Mumbaikars’ interest, safety, convenience, hence they neglected them, and it’s as simple as that. Here people are really very practical, no waves can make them to vote or touch their emotions. Whenever crowd was hired for political rallies, I had always doubt in my mind; will they ever turnout to exercise their franchise? So much campaigning, so much money wasted, so much advertisement and praising, but they neglected common man. Maharashtra has witnessed disasters in past one year. No political party has assured them safety and comfort.

Before 1991, the voter turnout never fell below 50 per cent, and from 1962 to 1977, it crossed 60 per cent with the highest turnout of 68 per cent recorded in 1967. So, why Mumbai has stopped voting? The impact of economic liberaliation on the financial capital, a decline in working class movements and the collapse of Mumbai’s mills are the major issues which has hampered the voting percentage in this city. Elimination of slums, shifting of slums from one area to another, distance between work place is also other reasons of decline in percentage. Summer vacation is another factor for poor turnout as many families have gone to their native village or are touring. There are many such factors that have affected voter’s turnout. More than the close battles being fought, voting in Mumbai is being watched to see if India’s financial and entertainment capital will improve on its dismal voting figure of 41.5 per cent in 2009. May be we failed in convincing people that, the need for change is required; change from the present system, irrespective of political parties. The electoral role needs to be revamped completely and the enrollment and transfer process needs to be made simple. For example, if someone moves out from say Bangalore to Mumbai, he/she should be able to apply for his/her name transfer using a simple form (even online) and within say a week or so it should be done. I cannot understand that, in the age of Information Technology, why we need paper forms! Go online, access your details, request for change – if required upload the required documents, that’s it. Until that happens, this problem will be there in metro cities where migrant population is high.

Mumbaiites have very less patience, they would love to be in traffic jams but when it comes to standing in voting queues, they won’t. The infrastructure in our city has just been propped up before the elections. We will continue to suffer if we do not show the politicians that our vote will make a difference. Many offices were open on voting day. There should be a day off mandatorily, but many people were working, which shows that the government wants the middle class to be out from the election process so that their candidates who use money and muscle power win. Even people from Bollywood were missing as they were away in the US for an award ceremony.

In 2009, the Congress and NCP swept the polls and won all six seats in Mumbai. This time, opinion polls say that BJP and its partner Shiv Sena have the advantage. The Aam Aadmi Party has added the twist to the tale, fielding candidates like former banker Meera Sanyal and social activist Medha Patkar. In early hours of polling, thin voter turnout seemed to dominate most polling booths in South Mumbai even as the city tried to shed its reputation as a city with political apathy. The 2009 election in the city saw a dismal 43 per cent turnout despite the fact that it came just months after the horrific terror attacks of November 2008. In 2009, Mumbai hit rock-bottom when it came to engaging with electoral democracy. At 41.4 per cent, not only was the city’s voter turnout in the previous Lok Sabha election well below any other metropolitan city in India, it was also the worst voting percentage in Mumbai’s history. On the bright side, the highest turnout in Mumbai was in 1967, when over 68 per cent of the city’s electorate came out to vote. That year, Mumbai’s (then) Central South constituency recorded the highest voter turnout for any constituency in Mumbai’s history, with over 70 per cent of the population getting inked. The seat was won by veteran socialist S A Dange of the Communist Party of India. Trade union leader George Fernandes won from the Mumbai South constituency that year on a ticket from the Samyukta Socialist Party. Over 67 per cent of South Mumbai came out to vote that year. In last 20 years, people have seen here gang wars, useless government, bomb blasts, terror attacks, riots, commuting problems, road issues, and infrastructure problems. Somewhere people stopped believing in government and political leaders.

This year, they really bid adieu to their responsibilities of choosing best government. It seems that they have no expectation from political goons. The biggest question is that till 4: 30 PM, voters’ turnout was around 40 per cent and all of a sudden by 6 PM, survey said that voters’ turn out touched 53 per cent. What miracle happened in one and half hour that changed the entire equation of the day? Should we call it turnout of Mumbaikars in evening or fake votes? Think about it.

Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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