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Citizen groups hand out strawberries and free rides to voters in Mumbai

While some resorted to arranging vehicles for residents, other associations distributed freebies to increase voter turnout.

mumbai Updated: Feb 22, 2017 01:38 IST
HT Correspondents
People wait outside a polling booth at juhu on Tuesday.
People wait outside a polling booth at juhu on Tuesday.(Satish Bate/HT)

The hotbed of citizen activism – H West and K West ward — that comprises Bandra, Khar, Santacruz, Juhu, Lokhandwala and Versova saw serious efforts made by residents associations to increase voter turnout on Tuesday. Residents were involved in door-to-door campaigns on the day of the election — Tuesday — to get a large number of citizens to vote. Both the wards had seen voter turnouts of 41.59% and 40.98% during the 2012 civic polls, which drastically increased on Tuesday.

While some resorted to arranging vehicles for residents, other associations distributed freebies to increase voter turnout. Activists also pointed out that they were discouraged by the election commission during the 2014 Assembly polls to take such steps and this time they had gone ahead with the initiatives.

Apart from going door-to-door to make sure people have voted and arranging free rides, a unique awareness campaign was run by the Guzdar Scheme Resident Trust for the voters of ward no.98, which comprises areas of Santacruz and Khar West. The trust was distributing a box of strawberries to encourage voters. Gautam Rao, trustee, said “The idea was to increase the voting percentage as it was pathetic last time. We asked voters to send a message to a particular outlet and they would deliver the box at their door step.” An activist said, “We wanted to carry out various initiatives, but were not permitted by the election commission during the 2014 Assembly polls.”

In Lokhandwala, a citizen group, Fight for Right of Yamuna Nagar, that comprises 16 societies, having around 2,000 voters, the citizens hired vehicles, which was used for pick-and-drop from outside their society to the polling booth and then again back to the society. This was used by many in their locality. A resident from this area, Nikhil Kulkarni, said, “We had stuck a circular on every notice board of the 16 societies to encourage voters and exercise their fundamental right and make their opinion count. With the goof-up and confusion over the address of the polling booths, the service was used widely.”

he resident association at Juhu had about 10 cars of the citizens that were used to help senior citizens, especially owing to the confusion over the addresses of the polling booths. To make sure that the senior citizens were not disheartened with this confusion, the cars ferried many of them to the polling booth. Ashoke Pandit, a citizen activist of this area, said, “There has been serious confusion, but we wanted to make sure that the residents voted. A team of citizens helped them with finding out the names wherever possible and ferried the citizens to the polling stations.”

(Reported by Chetna Yerunkar)

SoBo turns up to vote, bucks trend

Breaking all past election records, the island city — known for abysmally low voter turnouts from areas like Colaba, Churchgate, Nairman Point and Malabar Hill — showed a jump in numbers during the 2017 polls.

In Ward D, which comprises affluent areas like Malabar Hill, alongside the congested Girgaum and Khetwadi areas, recorded a 48.17% voter turnout, compared to 41.1% during the 2012 civic polls. The voter turnout from this Gujarati dominated ward even crossed the average voter turnout of the past two civic elections — 44.75% in 2012 and 46.05% in 2007.

In the 2012 civic polls, the highest voting was recorded in S ward, which comprises Bhandup, Powai and Kanjurmarg at 49.29%.

Of the 24 administrative wards, the A ward (Cuffe Parade, Colaba, Ballard Estate and Fort) saw the lowest voting percentage with just 34.10% voters turning up during the 2012 civic elections. Even here, there was a considerable increase. The neighbouring B ward, which includes Pydhonie, Masjid Bunder, P D’mello road, also saw more voters heading out to vote.

“I have never seen such good turnout and such a long queue in Colaba. This is the first election in which I saw voters turning out in good numbers in the island city,” said Pervez Cooper, a Colaba resident.

The voters also said information about candidates that was being displayed at polling centres was helpful. “The flex board displaying assets was an important and relevant move by the election commission. It helped voters make an informed decision,” said Preeti Mehrotra, a Churchgate resident.

The voter turnout is important, as it decides who will rule the country’s richest civic body for the next five years. The elections this time were all the more significant,as for the first time in more than two decades, all of the city’s major parties campaigned solo, without alliances.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar, his son-in-law Sadanand Sule and grand-daughter Revati Sule, voted in Peddar Road on Tuesday. Revati, a first-time voter, was excited about voting. But both Pawar and Revati could not vote for his party as there was no NCP candidate contesting from Ward no 214. Pawar said he voted for a secular party.

(Reported by Sanjana Bhalerao)

Focus on Marathi vote pays off

A battle between the Shiv Sena, BJP and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), all vying for the Maharashtrian vote, led to tremendous enthusiasm among voters in Mumbai’s Marathi heartland.

In the Parel-Lalbaug-Dadar belt, there was brisk voting since morning. This belt saw two former mayors contesting the elections. In Dadar’s ward 191, MNS’ Swapna Deshpande was seen criss-crossing the constituency on a two-wheeler urging people to vote. Her opponent, former mayor Vishakha Raut, monitored the whole thing through a network of Shakhas, or Sena offices. Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, with wife Rashmi and son Aaditya was seen visiting all spots to boost workers. Fighting an election that could impact the party’s existence in Mumbai, the Sena leadership took a lot of effort to ensure the party’s voter base is not dented by BJP. The BJP too made efforts to make inroads in the area. The MNS, which posed a challenge to Sena in this belt, however, seemed to be focusing on its core support areas such as Dadar. The voters too showed lot of enthusiasm. Take the case of 61-year old Ashok Chavan, who could barely walk and had to take the help of his son to reach his polling station in Parel. “I have never defaulted on voting as this gives me a chance to elect my representative.” Despite confusion of missing names and shift in polling centres, Marathi-speaking voters seemed to be making it a point to participate. Rekha Sakpal, who shifted to Diva after marriage, came back to her parents’ Lalbaug home just to cast her vote. “We share a very strong bond with Sena as it always stands for the Marathi Manoos. The party needs us and hence I came just to vote,” said Sakpal.

However, first-time voters were quite fascinated with the BJP. Harsh Wagh, an engineering student,said PM Modi appealed to the youth. “See the state of roads and civic amenities. and this clearly indicates the Sena has not worked at all. The Congress has a bad record and I feel we should give BJP a chance,” said Wagh.

Mayor Shraddha Jadhav, facing a formidable rebel and as strong Congress candidate said, “Our workers brought people to booths.” Arun Dalvi, BJP’s candidate, said high turnout indicates anger against the Sena.

(Reported by Prajakta Kunal Rane and Naresh Kamath)

Women lead the way in the east

In the slums of Mankhurd-Govandi, the middle-class colonies of Kurla-Tilak Nagar belt and elite societies at Chembur-Deonar, one thing was clear. Women voters were leading by example, waiting in queues at several polling booths from Tuesday morning.

In areas like Tilak Nagar, Sahakar Nagar, Govandi and Shivaji Nagar, the special queues for women voters stretched as the one for men. Around 3pm, the women’s queues started growing longer at a few polling booths.

“We know all parties and candidates forget their promises after elections, but I am going to exercise my right,” said Manisha Rajguru, 32, who came from Nerul in Navi Mumbai to cast her vote in Tilak Nagar. At most polling booths in Kurla-Chembur-Mankhurd, dominated by slums as well as big colonies and upper class societies, the scene was the same.

However, a common problem most voters faced at every booth was missing names. “The government says the voting is your right. But, how could we, if our name is missing?” said Vanita Harijan, 32, after searching for her name in different lists in Sahakar Nagar.

According to party workers, there was very low turnout at most polling booths, even in slum belts in the morning, but things turned around in the second half of the day.

At some slum pockets in Shivaji Nagar, Baiganwadi and Govandi areas, voter turnout was very high even early in the morning. Several voters spent almost an hour in queue before they could vote. In these wards, voter turnout was around 15-18% till 1.30pm, but later rapidly rose.

At every nook and corner of their wards, party workers, mostly youngsters, set up tables and were helping out. They used voter lists, tabs, laptops and mobiles to finding voters’ names.

Party workers were also seen taking effort to bring in loyal voters. Experts said because of this, several wards saw crowds after 5pm. An MNS candidate from Govandi said at five wards of nine, the voting process was not dine even after 6 pm.

Several young voters were seen casting votes for the first time. Soleha Sayyad, 23, a resident of Shivaji Nagar, said she could not vote during the Lok Sabha polls but made it a point to vote this time as she expects change. “We want cleanliness and water.” At most booths, the polling was peaceful.

(Reported by Kailash Korde)

Voters rise for ‘battleground’

The north Mumbai area, which according to most observers, is a straight battle between friends-turned-foes Shiv Sena and BJP and could decide the battle for control of the country’s richest civic body.

The area, which has traditionally been a stronghold of the Shiv Sena and the Congress saw a high turnout on Tuesday of 55%.

With areas such as Goregaon, Malad, Kandivali, Borivli and Dahisar in north Mumbai, it is considered a key contest between the Sena and the BJP as the latter has fielded 54 candidates in 58 electoral wards.

The area has a mix of communities such as Maharashtrians, Gujaratis, minorities and north Indians, which the BJP has been targeting to swing votes in their favour.

Since Tuesday morning, the polling centres witnessed long queues as citizens turned out for voting in large numbers. According to the official figures, this time the voter turnout is considerably higher than in 2012 where it was 46%.

The polling stations at Kurar Village in Malad (East), which is a mix of slumdwellers and low-income groups, witnessed serpentine queues. Voters stood awaiting their turn to cast their vote for more than two hours. Police officers posted on election duty were too surprised at the high turnout. “I have witnessed various elections in this area, but never saw such a great turnout. It is good that people have come out and are voting,” said a sub-inspector.

Voters at Kurar Village complained that their names are missing from the lists. “Many voters returned from the polling stations and did not vote because their names did not appear,” said Rupali Ajit Raorane, contesting on an NCP ticket from ward 37 (Kurar village).

Malwani, which is one of city’s largest slums, was chaotic as voters did not find their names on the updated voter lists.

Prakash Darekar, former MNS corporator, who switched to BJP, said that north Mumbai witnessed “huge” voting and it would bode well for his party. “In my ward (ward 11/Borivali East) we saw a voter turnout of around 62%. The whole north Mumbai belt has seen a huge turnout and it is a positive sign for BJP,” he said. Gajanan Kirtikar, Shiv Sena MP, from Mumbai North-west constituency, however, does not feelthe high turnout could go against Sena. He said the western suburbs are a Sena stronghold.

(Reported by Swapnil Rawal and Farhan Shaikh)

‘We senior citizens know more and have to vote to bring change’

They came using walking sticks, in wheelchairs, taking support of their children, patiently looking for their names in the voters list from one polling booth to another. The senior citizens visibly came out more in numbers to vote in the city, especially in the Ghatkopar, Mulund, Bhandup and Powai areas on Tuesday.

An 82-year-old citizen from Hiranandani, Powai, PN Gandhi got an ECG test done in the morning and came to vote with his daughter after the test. His daughter, Radhika Gandhi, who helped him walk to the booth, said Gandhi has never missed a chance to vote in the past 25 years. Another senior citizen, Dilip Modi, 60, a cancer survivor, came to the booth at KJ Somaiya college in Ghatkopar along with his wife. Modi said, “It is we (the senior citizens) who know more and have to vote to bring a change. Nobody else is interested.”

The Ghatkopar to Mulund belt, which includes Vidyavihar, Vikhroli, Kanjurmarg and Powai, is a mix of communities including Maharashtrians, Gujaratis and South Indians. The three administrative wards (N,S and T) together has 31 electoral wards. The Gujarati heartland — Ghatkopar-Vidyavihar — has traditionally voted for the BJP while the Shiv Sena has a strong presence in Bhandup, Vikhroli and Kanjurmarg. Most areas saw long queues of voters in the morning and also towards the evening.

Ghatkopar will see a big fight between two Gujarati candidates — BJP’s Parag Shah, the richest candidate in Mumbai and sitting corporator from Congress Pravin Chheda. Both Chheda and Shah were seen doing a recce in the polling booths of ward no.132 on Tuesday. Sumitra Bhat, a resident of Rajawadi said, “I have been living here for 48 years. Pravin Chheda has done good work in the past few years.”

Tuesday saw a lot of mismanagement from the administration’s part. Names were missing from the voter list and people could not find their booths. Though many senior citizens could not find their names in the polling booth where they have voted for the past three decades, they were determined to vote.

Shankar Alwat, 66, from Ghatkopar’s Bhim Nagar slums could not find his name in the list at RN Gandhi high school, but was determined to walk another 2 km despite his knee pain. “Youngsters think that it (voting day) is a holiday and plan trips. They do not understand that even one vote can bring a huge difference. It is also our right and duty towards our city,” Alwat said.

Mulund will see a tough fight between BJP and Sena candidates.

(Reported by Tanushree Venkatraman)

Read:

BMC polls: Mumbai records 52.17% voter turnout, highest in last 3 elections

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Voters angry as names go missing from lists in Mumbai

Well done, Mumbai. 55% voters step out, record highest turnout in 25 years