The decision to hold the civic polls mid-week, instead of the usual practice of conducting them on a Sunday, has been taken to reverse the trend of the declining voter turnout over two decades.
State election commissioner Neela Satyanarayan on Tuesday announced that the BMC elections would be on February 16 — a Thursday — to draw voters, as people usually refrain from coming to the polling booth on the weekend. “People make use of weekends to go on a holiday and hence don’t vote. We decided to hold polls on a working day, hoping people will vote,” she said.
The civic polls in the city have witnessed a steady decline in voter turnout. Civic activists feel that the decision to hold elections mid-week could turn the situation around. “The move will draw more people to polling booths,” said Anandani Thakur, coordinator, AGNI.
The anti-corruption movement has also heightened people’s political awareness, which should prompt them to vote, feel activists. “The concurrent political churning and awareness being created across the country over the past year has penetrated people’s minds. It is time they take the election as an eye opener. Politicians cannot be blamed every time. You must do your duty first by exercising your vote,” said Aftab Siddique, chairperson, Linking Road Citizen’s Forum.
Other factors, such as the growing citizen candidates, could make a crucial difference. GR Vora, civic activist and member of the Right to Information (RTI) union said: “With an alternative to political parties available, citizens cannot use the excuse that ‘sab politicians chor hai.”
The 50% women’s reservation is another factor to watch out for, said Indrani Malkani, trustee, V Citizens Action Network, who said that it should see parties fielding a diverse set of candidates.