The relatively low turnout in the Lok Sabha election in Mumbai — and Maharashtra — has made one thing clear and that is if there is any wave in the country in favour of an individual or a party it has not been felt in the financial capital of India. The spirit of Mumbai did not assert itself in the elections this time either. Part of the reason could be the hot weather, though that does not constitute the whole explanation. The city has a floating population, which moves out of the megapolis if there is a holiday. Mumbai has six Lok Sabha constituencies, which is a high figure. The turnout, around 53%, is, however, better than in 2009, when about 43% voted, but that year there was palpable anger against the government, both the Centre and the state, because of the 26/11 attacks, and some people went to the extent of threatening to boycott taxes. Delhi has performed much better in this respect, and Chennai too has outdone Mumbai.
If disgust with the current crop of politicians responsible for repeated building collapses in the city is another reason for the people’s apathy towards elections, this time there were some refreshing changes such as former banker Meera Sanyal and environment activist Medha Patkar, both of whom are contesting as AAP candidates. This does not seem to have worked. The Shiv Sena, which is fighting the first election after the death of its unquestioned leader Balasaheb Thackeray, seems to have failed in its efforts to mobilise voters. Also the fear of being attacked if they were seen in large numbers to vote may have kept people from Bihar away from polling booths.
It is undeniable that many economic issues that have been highlighted in this year’s election campaign are hinged to the decisions of Mumbai-based industrialists, who have been the most enthusiastic voters. But the migrant population of Mumbai, by not voting in large numbers, has highlighted another feature of Indian democracy: Voting enthusiasm comes only when people vote in their native places.