BMC elections register highest voter turnout in 25 years: What this indicates | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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BMC elections register highest voter turnout in 25 years: What this indicates

From the tony south Bombay to the congested western suburbs, the Marathi heartland, Gujarati strongholds and slums, Mumbai showed it cares, as it posted its highest ever voter turnout in 25 years on Tuesday.

mumbai Updated: Feb 22, 2017 10:17 IST
HT Correspondent
People cast their vote during the BMC elections at Nagpada in Mumbai on Tuesday.
People cast their vote during the BMC elections at Nagpada in Mumbai on Tuesday.(Anshuman Poyrekar/ HT Photo)

From the tony south Bombay to the congested western suburbs, the Marathi heartland, Gujarati strongholds and slums, Mumbai showed it cares, as it posted its highest ever voter turnout in 25 years on Tuesday.

The polling percentage of 55.28% is a record high for Mumbai since the 1992 election — the spike in turnout, on an average, worked out to six to seven points.

A preliminary analysis of voting percentages across the city also clearly showed that areas and classes of voters that have been traditionally considered politically apathetic, turned a corner.

Take the elite Malabar Hill, for instance. It posted a 48.17% voter turnout on Tuesday, up from 41.11% in 2012.

The biggest jump in voting in the city came from the western suburb of Borivli, with 61%, and the central suburb of Matunga and Wadala, at 58%.

In Mulund, the turnout was 60%. These areas saw a hike in turnout from around 42.58%, 41.90% and 47.78% respectively.

These surburbs were seen as BJP strongholds that have been dominated by Gujaratis, middle-class Maharashtrians and south Indians.

The Marathi strongholds of Worli, which saw 53% voters turning up to vote, Mahim (54%) and Parel (55.27%), also saw high voting, even if not as high as the areas like Mulund and Borivli.

The surge in voting was 7 to 10 percentage points in these areas seen as traditional Sena bastions.

Going by traditional analysis, a hike in polling percentage could mean a vote against the incumbent rulers, and one for change. In this case, Shiv Sena, which has been ruling the civic body for the past 25 years, may have a reason to worry and the BJP, which successfully took over the space of the opposition after the allies snapped ties this year, could benefit.

The BJP, however, has a lot of ground to cover, as it had only 31 corporators in the BMC. To emerge as the single-largest party, the BJP will need a three-fold increase in the number of seats it wins this time around.

Political observers said one of the primary reasons for the high voter turnout is the Sena and BJP having worked overtime to get their “committed voter” to cast votes. “It seems the sharply polarised poll fight between the Sena and the BJP has ensured that both worked on mobilising their voters, leading to an overall surge,” said Prakash Bal, political analyst.

“Is it a vote for change, or of community and party polarisation? One can’t be sure about that right now.”

The India Today-Axis exit polls indicated a close contest, with the Sena predicted to win 86 to 92 seats and the BJP coming a close second with 80 to 88 seats. The Congress would be a distant third with 30 to 34 seats. The exit poll also predicted that Sena would get a clear majority in Thane, while the BJP would win the Pune and Nagpur civic bodies.

And the BJP is upbeat. Its president Ashish Shelar said the high voter turnout has always been indicative of a vote for change. It will work in his party’s favour, Shelar said.

But, even within the party’s inner most circles, there is no surety of whether such a surge will actually translate into the BJP emerging as the largest party.

“It is clear there was a very close contest between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, but what’s not clear is how this will get played out in the results. Only on Thursday will we know which party will emerge as the leading party,” said a senior BJP leader.

“We know that we will have a big jump from our earlier tally of just 31 seats.. that is a given,” the leader said. The party did not expect this kind of a voting surge but it was confident of having mobilised its vote bank. The overall voting percentage also points to a sharply polarised poll battle between the Shiv Sena and the BJP.

This seems to have marginalised the Congress and reduced other parties, including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) further to the sidelines.

Interestingly, even in slum dominated areas like Mankhurd and the minority dominated areas, saw a visibly high turn out — a jump of around 7 per centage points. With AIMIM contesting for minority vote bank along with Congress, however, this advantage may not go to the latter as expected.