At 8 am on April 30, when the country’s financial capital goes to the polls, Avafrin Mistry (27), one of Mumbai’s one crore registered voters, will be taking her first parasailing lesson on Morjim Beach in sunny Goa, far away from the queues at polling booths, back home in Bandra.
Mistry, an assistant director with a media house, regrets not being in the city to vote especially after 26/11 terror attacks, but she needed a vacation desperately.
If Mistry and her friends reflect the average Mumbaiite’s mood, the voter turnout for Lok Sabha 2009 won’t be much different from 2004, well below 50 per cent.
The city with a literacy rate of 77.45 per cent, higher than the national average of 64.8 per cent, has always had low voter turnouts. Will this time be different?
“The Mumbai voter is in an aggressive mood and desperate for change. One hopes it translates into a record turnout on the 30th. I have my doubts. For Mumbaiites, the long weekend may score over their duty as citizens,” said author Shobhaa De.
Parties are clueless about which way the city will vote.
Delimitation has changed the demographics. The Congress and the Sena, which have traditionally shared the spoils, are no longer sure about their bastions.
“The so-called ‘spoilers’ like the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party, the impact of 26/11 and the economic slowdown have made the outcome totally uncertain,” said Professor Surendra Jondhale, of Mumbai university.
Then there are independent candidates like ABN AMRO’s country head Meera Sanyal (47) who are in the fray because of the 26/11 attacks. Sanyal and the others — among them an eye surgeon, a trader, an environmentalist — may not succeed but they underline a new awareness about elections.
Now if only this awareness is translated into a record turnout.