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Friday, April 25, 2014

General Elections-2014: Mumbai Hits Second Half Century In 25 Years!



After all the fears and speculation Mumbai, the financial capital of India, has recorded a voting percentage of 52.6% on the polling day yesterday for General Elections-2014. Although the figure is much lower than the national average and that of 65% recorded in the political capital of Delhi this reflects a 10% surge over the dismal voting of 41.4% in 2009.  This is the city’s second half century during the last 25 years with its first one coming in 1998 when the percentage was just over fifty. Before 1991 the voting percentage in Mumbai never fell below fifty percent and the city’s highest ever turnout of 68% was recorded in 1967 General Elections. Voter apathy grew largely after 1989 and various reasons like impact of economic liberalization, decline of the working class movement, closure of the cotton mills, constant shifting or elimination of slums, migratory population and even summer vacation during poll period are cited for this. This dismal voting in 2009 could also be explained in terms of the city losing faith in political leaders of all parties following the horrific Mumbai terror attack of 26/11/2008. 

Now speculation is ripe as to why Mumbaikars showed a willingness to vote in large numbers and whom this is going to benefit. One reason that comes to mind immediately is the tremendous public awareness campaigns undertaken by the Election Commission with active support from the media telling and urging Mumbaikars to exercise their democratic right on a daily basis. Then there is the latest voting option of NOTA (None Of The Above) thanks to which you can press that button to reject all candidates if they do not qualify in your view. Sulking and angry voters who sat at home on earlier occasions can now come out to exercise their democratic right and express themselves. 

Sachin Tendulkar Votes
Historically, at least since 1977, whenever Mumbai voted comparatively better there was a change of government. Post-Emergency in 1977 voting turnout in Mumbai was more than sixty percent and this reflected in rejecting Congress and bringing in the Janata Party Government under Prime Minister late Morarji Desai. The Janata Party messed up the public mandate leading to mid-term polls in 1980 and the angry city sulked. Post Indira Gandhi assassination and the tremendous national sympathy wave Mumbai recorded a turnout of more than 56% and brought back the Congress government in 1984-85 General Elections. Following Bofors Scam and growing terrorism Mumbai recorded more than 57% voting and rejected the Congress government in 1989 General Elections. Even in 2004 General Elections voting percentage was only a little higher than normal at 47% and that amounted to throwing the BJP led NDA government out of power. If this anti-incumbency trend is consistent then this time also the higher voting in Mumbai could spell trouble for the ruling combine of Congress-NCP in Maharashtra. Leaders of the ruling combine are quick to rebut the anti-incumbency or wave-for-change theory ascribing the higher percentage to an upsurge of voting by certain Muslim and backward communities. For witnessing the true significance of the Mumbai half century we will have to wait till 16th May, 2014 when counting of votes start and results come out.
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