If you want your grouses on bad roads, water cuts, the lack of open spaces and crumbling infrastructure to be heard and want to change the way your city is run, you should get out and vote on February 16, when the country’s richest municipal corporation goes to the polls.
That’s the message politicians across party lines sent out to citizens on Saturday, at Hindustan Times’s Mumbai First Conclave 2012, titled Agenda for Mumbai. The conclave initiated much-needed dialogue between the citizenry and its much-criticised rulers.
The Shiv Sena-BJP combine has been running the Brihan-mumbai Municipal Corporation for 17 years. The results of next month’s election, in which an electorate of 1.04 crore will vote for their next civic rulers, will be announced on February 17.
For a city known to be apathetic about elections, the conclave saw a full house at the YB Chavan Centre auditorium at Nariman Point, with senior politicians fielding complaints and questions from NGOs, urban planners, transport experts and students.
When tempers ran high on the state of the city’s civic amenities, including public transport and housing, politicians offered a sobering perspective.
“People do not have the right to say what politicians should do if they are not coming out to vote,” said Vinod Tawde, Opposition leader in the Legislative Council. In the past two elections, Mumbai’s voter turnouts were 42% and 46%.
Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam said his party was responsive to citizens’ demands. “We will try our best to have open spaces on our election manifesto, along with all other central concerns of citizen groups,” he said.
MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar, who called his party the ‘last hope’, pointed out that it is the educated and upper-middle-class who bring the voting percentage of the city down.
“The overall voting percentage in affluent areas is often as low as 12%. It is about 60% in middle-class and slum areas,” he said. Citizen groups agreed that change would need to start in every home, with voters exercising their right to vote. HT, in its ongoing poll campaign, has also been stressing the importance of your vote.
“Mumbai has an appalling voting percentage. At the heart of our coverage of the elections is the message that your vote can make a difference to your city, and, therefore, to your own life in it,” said Soumya Bhattacharya, editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai.
So, go out and vote, even if you hate politicians of every hue. For, this time, you also have more alternatives. There are at least four citizen platforms putting up citizen candidates.