Mumbai polling lowest since 1977, residents say read between lines

May 1st, 2009 - 7:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Aamir Khan Mumbai, May 1 (IANS) The poor voter turnout of 41.24 percent for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in India’s financial and entertainment capital, Mumbai, was the lowest since 1977 and many residents say it sends a powerful message - politicians must not take them for granted.
Mega-blitz voter awareness campaigns unleashed by political parties, NGOs and top film stars like Aamir Khan and John Abraham seem to have had little effect on Thursday’s polling for six constituencies here.

The polling figure in Mumbai has never sunk this low since 1977 when Mumbai came to have six constituencies instead of five. That year the voter turnout was 61.17 percent.

“The people of Mumbai have decisively discarded apprehensions over terrorism, security and inflation woes raised by various political parties. They want the basics - better infrastructure and better living conditions - not the so-called dangers highlighted by the insecure politician,” asserted Borivali realty consultant Nitin Shah.

Endorsing the view, retired academician R.N. Desai of Vile Parle said the Mumbaikar’s message to all political leaders was if they need the support of the average citizen, then favourable conditions to live, commute and work must get topmost priority.

“Otherwise, people are ready to ignore all parties and fend for themselves, as they did during the Mumbai floods and other natural or manmade calamities,” she added.

Mumbai has over 9.6 million voters.

Some politicians have attributed the low turnout to the four-day long weekend in Mumbai, while others cite the holiday season, the heat, lukewarm response of slumdwellers, the long ‘dry spell’ with no liquor since Tuesday.

The average Mumbaikar’s apathy towards elections seems to have grown.

Nevertheless, the latest voting figures have disappointed and shocked officialdom and contestants alike.

“This time, we had made elaborate voting and security arrangements, extended all possible help that voters would require,” said a perplexed election official, unable to fathom the causes behind the fall in voting percentage.

The voter turnout was 52.53 percent in 1980, 56.36 percent in 1984 and 57.31 percent in 1989. It dipped to a low of 41.43 percent in 1991, but climbed to 45.90 percent in 1996 and 50.26 percent in 1998. The figure again nosedived to 44.86 percent in 1999 and then touched 47.15 percent in 2004.

Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, also fared badly in the three-phased 2009 general elections here that was completed Thursday, with a polling percentage of 49.21 percent.

-Indo-Asian News Service

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