We Are Like That Only
After a rather shamefully slow start to polling today in Mumbai, the voter turnout thankfully showed a sharp spike in the last three hours. South Mumbai, which stood at 29% voter turnout at 3 pm, finally seemed to have registered a respectable 50.26%. Maharashtra and Mumbai figures, in the concluding phase of elections today, clocked a 10% increase from 2009. None of this is any stuff to be proud of considering Tamil Nadu recorded 73% and West Bengal 82%. The surprise factor was relatively higher polling in South Mumbai, notorious for stepping out, at 54% (that is high okay!). highest of the lot was at south central (dadar etc) at 55%. The percentage of turnout in the state was 55.33% against 44.86% in 2009 general elections.
Where There's A Will...
Early in the morning it was senior citizens and morning walkers who made up whatever little percentage Mumbai had recorded. Be it 94-year-old Krishen Kaur at Pali Hill or 84-year-old Vimla Bhargav at Bandra (East), who was wheelchair bound and waited patiently for people at polling booth sans a ramp to wheel her in. “We believe in democracy.” “I have always voted. This year I am in the wheelchair but no problem,” said the two.
Words of Wisdom
However, the problem was somewhere else. At HR and KC College, near Churchgate station in the heart of south Mumbai where the uber cool, who have always given a coldish response to elections, reside, at 3 pm the voting percentage was below 20%. A few people trickled in every hour. The cop on duty said, “Madam here everybody is happy with their lives. Poor people vote because they feel getting a toilet built is a big deal. I am falling asleep waiting for people here. You go to any of the booths where slums and fishermen colonies are voting. The crowds are all there.” It will be a while before we analyse those exact figures, but looking at the deserted stretch and the final figures, perhaps the cop was right.
None of The Above
There were few takers for NOTA, probably because the Generation Y, which was supposed to have been excited by this option, did not really step out today. The voting queues throughout the day had more senior citizens or elderly than youngsters and they seemed to be of the opinion that "it was important to form a good government." Raza Farooqui, 25, a first time voter in south Mumbai had used the four hour break given by his office to ensure that his vote doesn't go waste, even preferred "none of the above" candidates in the constituency. Priya Dutt was among the early voters at the Bandra booth and she said she hoped the "young wake up and cast their vote soon." However, appeals by parties, Bollywood stars did not seem to have cut much ice.
The rough figures of voters, whose names disappeared from the lists, range from a few hundred to lakhs in Maharashtra. Many cases are under investigation and if any foul play is detected then the authorities may face action. However, there was one bitter truth pill I had to gulp today. At one of the booths I asked the electoral officer about this problem. He said, “How do people find out that schools are taking admissions for children? Do they come and inform parents or parents seek that information? How hard is it to check if your name is there or not on the list? It is all online. There are ways to fix the problem if you come to us few days in advance. I agree that no mistakes should be made but if it is a voters' right to cast their vote, isn’t it also their duty to ensure that things are in place?” Hmmm. But we are still investigating the conspiracy theories too where one party is alleging that the other “made” some names disappear.
A Political Lesson
In a city, where being political or politically argumentative is frowned upon for the middle and upper middle classes, Father Frazer’s statement/letter/post about the Gujarat Model attracted much attention from, guess-who, the BJP and guess-who-again, the media. Everyone pounced on him for “using” his position and the “timing.” For a well-known academician who speaks very often on many eco-socio-anthropological subjects, it must be harsh to be in the middle of this storm. But for all Xavierites, like me, who knew Fr Frazer from his most-friendly counselling centre days, where students could rant about anything from hating studies to disclosing sexuality, he is a lovable professor with integrity. And if you ask me about the students, there is almost nothing that the students of this autonomous college will accept without questioning and debating. Be it wearing sleeveless clothes, Malhar parties, having lectures by Arundhati Roy, Sharad Joshi, Datta Samant, Dr Binayak Sen-- nothing will be followed without being convinced. And the teachers there like that.
Politics of Hate, Politics of Threats
Even as Narendra Modi regaled the audience on the last day of campaigning at Mumbai, Shiv Sena’s Ramdas Kadam had done his bit of hate speech, as seems to be the norm now elsewhere in India too. “During his speech, former MLA Mr Kadam had referred to the rioting between the police and Muslim groups in Azad Maidan in 2012. “Five lakh Muslims had gathered at Azad Maidan. They attacked the police, burnt police vans, damaged the martyrs’ memorial and molested policewomen. When Narendra Modi comes to power, he will teach such people a lesson,” he said in Marathi,” reported the Hindu. A case has been filed and Sena has distanced itself from the comments. Although the Modi wave seems to rise and fall, the small (but significant?) protests against him continued with one more being organised at marine drive with academics and activists-- this time it was silent with placards saying: Vikas ka feku Modi kya kehta hai?
Another incident, this time involving NCP leader Ajit Pawar, popularly called Ajitdada, has caused surprise and shock. Reports say that he threatened voters/residents of Supriya Sule’s constituency saying their water supply will “suffer” if they don’t vote for NCP. Surprise, because this is not the first time Ajitdada has said something unwarranted (remember the piss in dam remark?). Shock, because one wouldn’t expect this kind of arrogance on the eve of voting from a politician seeking votes. Must say, it's a very nice way of asking for votes.
Law and Order
There are several cases of deletion of names, seizure of alcohol, money, violation of code of conduct by different parties, hate speeches and so on. As time goes by more details will be given out and developments in these cases will hopefully take place. And now that we are done with polling in Mumbai (phew!) we can go back to discussing poll results possibilities, IPL and summer vacations on FB and Twitter. After all it is a free country, no? Long live democracy.
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