Maha polls: Voter turnout touches 50% in Thane districtUpdated: Oct 22, 2019 01:33 IST
Around 50% people cast their votes in Thane district in the Maharashtra Assembly elections, according to provisional data at 9.20pm, on Monday. While officials said a long weekend and closure of schools for Diwali affected the voter turnout, the re-arrangement of more than 1,700 booths also led to confusion among residents.
In the 2014 Assembly polls, the district had witnessed a turnout of 50.16% voters.
Shahapur constituency registered the highest voting percentage — 60.99% — in the district, followed by Bhiwandi rural (58.17%) and Murbad (56.51%), according to data released by the Election Commission (EC). A poor turnout was recorded in Ulhasnagar, which saw a voter turnout of 41.20%, while Kalyan East saw a turnout of 42.72%, and Bhiwandi West 49.35%. A lot of Ulhasnagar residents, angry over illegal constructions in the city, had decided to boycott the elections.
In the morning, there were just three to four people in most polling booths, unlike the Lok Sabha elections, when long queues were witnessed outside most polling booths.
A total of 1,700 polling booths were rearranged this year. An official from Thane district said, “The crowd at polling stations this year was lesser as we had divided most of the booths among different centres to ensure they are on the ground floors of buildings. This division also reduced crowd in booths in places like Patlipada and Hiranandani Estate, which witnessed overcrowding in the last election. It is true that the turnout dipped because of the long weekend. However, it picked up pace post noon.”
The change in addresses of polling booths also led to confusion in Kalyan, Dombivli, Ulhasnagar and Ambernath as most voters ended up at wrong booths. Prabhakar Chavan, 67, said that for 40 years, he had been voting from the same polling booth at Patlipada, but on Monday, his name was missing from there. “On Monday morning, I saw that my name was not on the voters’ list in this booth. The election officials informed that my polling station is in another school, which is far from my house. For 40 years I have voted from the same booth and wasn’t aware that my booth address has changed.”
Meanwhile, despite guidelines stating that wheelchairs must be present at all polling centres, some lacked the facility. Although the booth at Koknipada School in Gawand Baugh was situated on the ground floor, the school itself was on a hillock. So people had to climb several stairs to reach the booth as there were no wheelchairs. Dr CB Vig, an 81-year-old Upavan resident, said, “There were no wheelchairs, but I managed to climb up the stairs to cast my vote. There are others who cannot do so.”
Bhimrao Gawane, zonal officer of this booth, said, “We were short of wheelchairs so could not arrange for this booth. We are, however, tried to procure one from some social organisations. Many people were not willing to use the wheelchair, though, as they take it as an insult.”
In Badlapur, which falls in Murbad constituency, a polling centre at Shreeji Complex, Katrap Chowk in Badlapur (East), was set up on the second floor despite the Election Commission’s order to set up booths on the ground floor.
The lift at this commercial complex was also not working in the morning. “We had to take the stairs to reach the second floor after walking all the way to the centre. When there were directions on setting up it in ground floor why weren’t they followed?” asked Vivek Mahajan, 62, a voter.
Chief officer of Badlapur Municipal Council, Prakash Borse, said it was not possible to make arrangements on the ground floor, and hence, the second floor was chosen as there was a lift. “The lift was not working in the morning, but we got it fixed it by 9am. We had deployed persons to help the elderly and specially-challenged citizens.”Polling booths were also set up on first and second floor of NKT College and Thane Police School. Sanjeev Dutta, an activist from Kharkar Ali said, “The lifts at these centres were far off and people were unaware of it. Many senior citizens climbed up the two floors.”