|Manipur recorded 82 per cent turnout during the state assembly elections last month
In a recent panel discussion among political heavyweights, the leader of the opposition in Maharashtra’s Legislative Council, Vinod Tawade asked “Will the voters show up? Can you show an 80 per cent turnout on 16 February?” This is the crux of the electoral matter in the municipal elections next Thursday.
The panel discussion had featured many issues that affect the lives of a city dweller. The most important ones are water, traffic, garbage, health and education. Unaffordable housing, and relatedly the proliferation of slums are also burning issues. So are lack of open spaces and potholes. Why are there no mid-day meals for children in municipal schools?
But after discussing these numerous challenges and how to tackle them, in the summing-up portion, Mr Tawade put out this challenge to the voters of Mumbai. We will tackle all these problems, but first will you come out to vote? The voters of Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and other cities need to give a resounding response. Maharashtra is one of India’s most urbanised states, and hence city elections matter a lot.
There has been a record turnout in elections to state assemblies in Manipur (82%), Uttarakhand (70% despite the cold weather) and Punjab (77%). The first phase of Uttar Pradesh too are breaking new records. Last year, there was record turnout in Puducherry (85), Tamil Nadu (79), Kerala (75), Assam (76) and Bengal (85). Thanks to the large voter turnout, Bengal saw the end of the hegemony of 34 years of the Leftist parties. This rising voter participation is a sign of a vibrant democracy. Maybe it is an Anna effect?
Will Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and other seven cities emulate this country-wide trend? Or will city voters be apathetic and stay at home? Will Mumbai at least break the 50% halfway mark? There are many reasons not to vote. Such as “what difference will one vote make?” Well ask Mr C P Joshi, currently Union Minister, and formerly head of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee. In the 2008 State Assembly election, he lost by one vote (despite a re-count of postal ballots), and lost his chance of being the Chief Minister.
In Mumbai, during the 2007 municipal elections, many winners won by a margin of less than 100 votes. That’s less than half of all voters in a typical housing society. So every vote counts.
Another reason could be “none of the candidates appeals to me”. Have you studied their biodata? Have you scrutinised their affidavits? And if you really don’t like any candidate, you can still register a 49 (O) vote, which is basically a “none of the above” (NOTA) vote. We won’t have a NOTA button on the electronic voting machine, but we can still sign a 49(O). Ask for it from the election officer on duty. Insist on 49 (O) if you really do not want to vote for any of the dozen candidates. If you don’t go, someone else might vote in your name instead.
Here are some ideas to increase voting percentage next week. Every conscientious voter should ensure that he or she induces ten others to vote. Download information about the candidates from the websites (mahasec.com or myneta.info or mumbaivotes.com), print out your local candidate info and distribute the leaflets locally. Give your domestic help a day off (not penalised only if she shows the election mark on her finger the next day!).
Stick the list of candidates in your constituency in your building or office, so people talk about it. On election day, go and vote early, or else someone else might vote in your name. Announce a prize for the voting booth which has maximum percentage voting in your area. Send out SMS reminders. Mr Tawade we hear you; watch out for the score!
Reduce state’s interference
Ajit Ranade aptly uses the metaphor ‘sumo wrestlers’ in his column ‘Square peg in round hole’, (PM, February 4), to define the ruling classes of the Mumbai and the state. Further, on numerous occasions we have seen that the city stakeholders hardly get heard in policy making for the city. In fact during elections the city doesn’t get a chance to choose its own leaders. The high command of the party which wins, decides who gets what. A system should be devised where the interference of State can be reduced and the power to take key decisions wrest solely with the city.
- Mahesh Kale