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Last Updated : Apr 29, 2019 05:27 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Lok Sabha polls Phase 4 | Why does India's Maximum City record minimum voter turnout?

In 2014, Mumbai registered a turnout of 51.6 percent, which was an improvement from a low of 41.4 percent in the 2009 general election

Retired Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar poses with his family after casting vote in Mumbai. (Image: ANI)
Retired Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar poses with his family after casting vote in Mumbai. (Image: ANI)

Even though stakes are high for political parties vying for the reigns of India’s financial capital, Mumbaikars are seemingly failing to break the jinx of a low voter turnout. The turnout recorded till 3pm was around 30 percent.

Mumbai accounts for 1 percent of India’s population, and is often known for its ‘fast life’ and stark disparity between the rich and the destitute. Although it has some of the richest people residing, the city records one of the poorest voter turnouts.

In 2014, Mumbai registered a turnout of 51.6 percent, which was an improvement from a low of 41.4 percent in the 2009 general election. As compared to other metropolitan cities – such as Delhi and Bengaluru, Mumbai paints a grim picture.

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The city’s two landmarks, Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE), are shut as the city goes to the polls during the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections. Most corporate houses, as well as banks, are also shut to facilitate Mumbaikars to vote.

Then, why a low turnout?

Experts believe that the reason for a low voter turnout is the absence of a politically charged atmosphere, combined with a simmering summer which makes the idea of standing in long queues less compelling.

In addition, the long weekend and the onset of the summer vacation had already sent most Mumbaikars out of the city in search of cooler weather and better backdrops.

Reasons to vote?

Nowadays, the landscape of Mumbai has a smoky texture to it, marred with dug-out roads, which are reduced to half their width because of various infrastructure projects taken up by the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena combine. This has led to serpentine traffic jams in the city during peak hours.

On the one hand, there is a well-off cluster residing in high rises in South Mumbai, who have less to complain about other than bad roads and incessant traffic. The South Mumbai constituency has recorded the least turnout among the six constituencies that Mumbai is made of.

Read Also | In Pics: Priyanka Chopra, Aamir Khan, other Bollywood celebrities cast their votes

On the other hand, there are suburbs, which signify various social ranks, where issues span from insufficient salaries, unaffordable rents, water scarcity, exorbitant healthcare and crumbling state infrastructure, which has at times also been fatal.

Yet, most Mumbaikars don’t vote. Ajit Ranade, one of the co-founders of Association of Democratic Reforms, told the Hindu, “Low voter awareness, voters’ apathy, agnosticism — when the candidate on the ballot does not excite or motivate the voter— and lack of registration in the young category and first-time voters are the reasons for low voter turnout.”

Celebrities, candidates and celebrity candidates

Mumbai is home to the Indian film industry and many actors post pictures after voting, in an attempt to encourage their fans.

Often, Bollywood actors have turned to politics, and this year is no exception.

For instance, Mumbai North has actor Urmila Matondkar, who recently joined the Congress, against BJP’s Gopal Shetty, who won the last election by a landslide 5,40,000 votes.

Meanwhile, Mumbai North Central has Congress’ Priya Dutt pitted against BJP’s Poonam Mahajan – the former is the daughter of legendary Bollywood actor Sunil Dutt and the latter is the BJP politician Pramod Mahajan’s daughter.

One of the highlights in election campaigning in Bandra this year was the recognition of sexual minorities as a politically important segment. LGBTQI+ rights activist Harrish Iyer, who joined the Congress this April becoming India’s first openly gay politician — met with members of the LGBT community to discuss bringing their issues into mainstream politics.

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First Published on Apr 29, 2019 05:18 pm
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