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The Urbanator roars — finally

Pappu doesn’t live in a posh South Delhi colony anymore. Middle-class voters turned up in massive numbers at polling booths to exercise their franchise, reports Sidhartha Roy.

delhi Updated: May 09, 2009 00:24 IST
Sidhartha Roy

Turning the conventional stereotype on its head, urban middle-class voters from areas like Greater Kailash (56.6 per cent) and Malviya Nagar (59.2 per cent) came out of their cosy flats and plush kothis to shed their tag of political apathy.

While New Delhi constituency, with the highest concentration of middle- and upper middle-class areas, led the march by registering a voter turnout of nearly 56 per cent, urban pockets in all constituencies showed a similar trend.

Numbers tell the story
Post-delimitation, South Delhi comprises huge tracts of rural areas but at Assembly seats like Badarpur and Tughlakabad that always assured a good turnout. But only 41.57 per cent and 45.04 per cent voters, respectively, turned up. The turnout was almost 50 per cent in middle-class Kalkaji.

While rural areas of West Delhi like Matiala (49.25 per cent) and Najafgarh (40.84 per cent) had abysmal turnouts, middle-class areas — Janakpuri (60.23 per cent) and Rajouri Garden (55.81 per cent) — had one of the highest turnouts in Delhi.

Similarly at Chandni Chowk, while voters in Muslim-dominated areas like Matia Mahal (50.83 per cent) and Balllimaran (52.52 per cent) didn’t show characteristic enthusiasm, middle-class Shalimar Bagh registered a robust 58.42 per cent turnout.

The story repeated itself in East Delhi’s Jangpura (75.61 per cent), Northeast Delhi’s Timarpur (55.65 per cent) and Northwest Delhi’s Rohini (57.92 per cent) areas.

Voters in these middle-class areas turned up in large numbers while those in rural areas, urban villages and unauthorised colonies didn’t have much to show by numbers.

Pappu makes a mark
The Election Commission’s Pappu campaign seems to have had the largest impact on urban voters. “The many commercials urging voters to exercise their right have definitely hit home. The campaigns have been most intense here and have motivated the English-speaking classes,” said Prof. Dipankar Gupta of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Candidate connect

Though election campaigning was bland due to the many clampdowns, the presence of well-known and visible candidates helped. In New Delhi, for instance, Ajay Maken of the Congress and the BJP’s Vijay Goel are household names and voters could connect with them.

Candidates like Kapil Sibal (Congress) in Chandni Chowk and Jagdish Mukhi (BJP) in West Delhi too are well-known in middle-class areas. The candidates talked about issues the middle-class could relate to.

A vote for my PM
Many in urban pockets voted to choose the prime minister. “This time, both the BJP and the Congress declared their prime ministerial candidates. So people who did not know the local candidates, voted for party. They voted to chose the PM,” said Sandeep Sharma, a resident of Rajinder Nagar.

RWAs’ role
Usually party workers coax people to vote on election day. But this time, many South Delhi RWAs acted as a catalyst.
“We have been active in ensuring more people vote and the turnout has been as high as 67 per cent,” said Col. (Retd.) J.J. Bakshi of Defence Colony RWA.

“We have been urging residents to vote in large numbers. The result has been good and we saw 65 per cent turnout,” said Rajiv Kakria of GK I RWA.

Young voters
For educated youngsters, voting is the in thing. “No one wants to be called a Pappu and that’s why I voted though I was feeling lazy,” said Ankush Batra, a student and Hauz Khas resident. “I knew my friends would show off their inked fingers the next day and would like to see mine.”

Scope for improvement
“Though many middle-class voters and youngsters voted this time... the other 50 per cent didn’t,” said Gupta. “The results could have been much more better.”