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Citizens' groups battle voter apathy

mumbai Updated: Feb 11, 2012 00:53 IST
Poorvi Kulkarni

Citizen groups are going that extra mile to bring about voter awareness. Many citizen organisations have adopted innovative methods to make Mumbaiites feel responsible so that they go out and vote on February 16.

My Dream Colaba, a Colaba-based citizens' group, has undertaken a ‘promissory note' campaign to ensure that local residents exercise their franchise for the civic polls.

“Our volunteers have been going door-to-door and encouraging residents to sign a promissory note saying that they will not abstain from voting,” said Ghanashyam Hegde, member of My Dream Colaba. The group has got 1,000 promissory notes signed so far.

In the past two decades, Mumbai has seen a decline in voter turnout. The turnout recorded in 1992 was 49.14%. This dipped to 44.16% in 1997. In 2002, there was a further drop – 42.05%. The year 2007 saw a slightly better turnout at 46.05%.

“The common people are frustrated with the failure of the system in every aspect. It has sunk into the people's minds that nothing can change. In such a state of affairs, it becomes all the more important to vote en masse and let politicians know the power of the electorate,” said Rajkumar Sharma, coordinator of NGO, Action for Good Governance and Networking in India (AGNI).

“In spite of having a large number of elite and educated people, it's shocking that Colaba registered only a 23% voter turnout in 2007,” said Hegde. “It's not that people don't realise the importance of voting, but somehow, it does not get prioritised in their lives. So we are doing something that leaves an impression in their minds.”

The group also plans to launch a campaign around the Valentine's Day theme. “We will hold placards saying ‘I love clean water and hence I will vote'. That way, we are encouraging people to celebrate Valentine's Day by expressing their love for the city,” Hegde said.

On a similar note, I Love Mumbai, an organisation led by fashion designer-turned-politician, Shaina NC, has organised a campaign in Grant Road. “In Mumbai, it's largely the slumdwellers that form the political parties' vote banks. This trend needs to be changed,” said Shaina.

A number of youngsters and first-time voters have been roped in for this campaign. “First-timers need to be educated about the electoral process, and if they hear it from their peers, the impact is much better,” said Shaina.

Both groups are fielding candidates for the polls. While Shaina NC's association with the Bharatiya Janata Party is well-known, My Dream Colaba is fielding Makarand Narwekar in ward number 227.

Both Shaina and Hegde made it clear that their campaigns do not involve any propaganda.