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Elections 2014: Braving all odds, these Mumbai heroes went out to vote

Thanks to these brave champions of democracy, who did not let old age or adversity come in the way of casting their vote, the city saw a jump in voter turnout of over 11 percentage points

When Edward Moorthy (47) from Orlem, Malad, walked into his polling booth yesterday, polling officials and other voters nearly broke into applause. The feisty businessman (he runs a small consultancy) has only one leg and no hands.

Edward Moorthy gets his foot inked at a poll booth in Orlem, Malad. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Edward Moorthy gets his foot inked at a poll booth in Orlem, Malad. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Moorthy lost three limbs in a train accident between Mira Road and Bhayander while on his way to work a couple of years ago. Ask him about the accident and Moorthy merely replies, “I do not recall how I fell. I only know I lost my limbs after that.”

Today, though, Moorthy is an example of courage and resilience. Rather than moping about his fate, he is concerned about that of the nation and he was absolutely determined to go to the booth yesterday. Moorthy’s wife accompanied him, but he is so self-reliant that he did not need her help to walk or press the button on the EVM.

“I used the stump of my arm to press the button. I think the staff members were awed, judging by the way they were gaping at me. I must add that all of them were extremely cooperative.” Moorthy had his foot inked to show that he had voted. He placed his foot on the table with some help and an officer applied the ink while others in the polling booth looked on with a mix of curiosity and admiration.

Moorthy used prosthetic limbs earlier, but discarded them because they were too heavy. He has come a long way in dexterity, though, and can place phone calls without much help. “I ask somebody to place the mobile phone on a table in front of me and then key in the numbers with the stumps of my arms. It is simply a matter of having the courage to overcome difficulty and perform everyday tasks. I always take that as a challenge I have to conquer,” he says.

When he was asked what he thought about the low voter turnout, Moorthy said, “If I could have the courage to vote, I think every Mumbaikar should have risen from his comfortable seat, stepped out of air-conditioned comfort, shaken off his apathy and come out to vote.

While some people tried to vote but could not find their name on the list, there is no excuse for people who did not vote for random reasons.” “It is very important that we all vote so that our voice is heard,” he signed off, adding, “I am never depressed. I have God’s blessing.”

Voting percentage for 19 LS seats

Voting percentage in Mumbai
2014: 52.66%
2009: 41.42% 
Difference: 11.24%

Mumbai North: 52%
Mumbai North-West: 52%
Mumbai North-East: 50%
Mumbai North-Centl: 53%
Mumbai South-Centl: 52%
Mumbai South: 55%

Thane: 42%
Kalyan: 43%
Bhiwandi: 60%
Palghar (ST): 58%
Raigad: 64%
Nashik: 64%
Nandurbar (ST): 62%
Dhule: 59%
Jalgaon: 56%
Raver: 58%
Jalna: 63%
Aurangabad: 59%
Dindori (ST): 64%
Average: 55.57%
Voting percentage
2014: 59.52%
2009: 50.75%
Difference: 8.77%

Source: Election Commission of India

52.66%
Voter turnout in 2014

41.42%
Voter turnout in 2009

She has been voting since 1951

Thane woman, who had cast her vote in first Lok Sabha polls in 1951, is an enduring example of civic responsibility

With the youth clearly shying away from their expected role as game changers, it was left to 103-year-old Vithabhai Damodhar Patil to be the guiding light as the city went to polls yesterday.

Vithabai Damodar Patil, 103, casts her vote at a polling booth in Kopri Village, Thane East. Pic/Sameer Markande
Vithabai Damodar Patil, 103, casts her vote at a polling booth in Kopri Village, Thane East. Pic/Sameer Markande

The Thane resident can still recall voting during the country’s first Lok Sabha elections in 1951 and she went with her entire family to vote this time around as well. Patil reached the polling booth, which is around 200 metres from her home, at 9 am sharp and her family members said that her dedication inspired them to follow suit.

Speaking to mid-day yesterday, Patil recalled, “In 1951, the Indian National Congress was supported by the majority and my husband was also a staunch supporter of the party. There were no rickshaws at the time and we would walk to go and cast our vote. These days, however, the polling booths are close at hand.”

“My husband, in fact, was the one who made me realise how important it is to cast one’s vote. Voting came first for him and, on polling day, he would not go anywhere until he had voted. This dedication has been passed on to my kids and grandchildren too, and they make it a point to vote every time.”

Patil, who was married at the age of seven, bore 13 children, out of which six sons and one daughter survived. Her daughters-in-law seem completely in awe of her. Prabhavati, Patil’s fifth daughter-in-law, said, “I remember I had fractured my hand during the last general elections and was not able to go and vote. I realised, however, that physical injury should not be an impediment to voting, considering that my sasu goes and votes despite her old age.”

Patil’s eldest son, Ashok, said, “My mother, who turned 103 on February 2, is very aware of whom she should vote for and her age is no bar for her. She is a responsible citizen and understands that her vote will decide the future of the country. Although we told her to vote post 10 am, she decided to go at 9 am and we followed her without delay.”

'I'll keep voting till I die'

Blindness, old age and a failing memory weren’t enough to deter Ghatkopar resident Bhagu Bhai Patel (103).

103-year-old Bhagu Bhai Patel with his 79-year-old son Mahendra. Pic/P Shrushti
103-year-old Bhagu Bhai Patel with his 79-year-old son Mahendra. Pic/P Shrushti

When his son, Mahendra (79), informed him that polling for the Lok Sabha elections was slated for yesterday, Patel, who practiced medicine for 80 years, decided to go to the polling booth even though he can’t walk.

“My son, who is also a doctor, gave me information about the various parties and a security guard helped me get to the polling booth. It is very important for every citizen to vote and it is our responsibility to be a part of India’s future. If I am alive till the next election, I will definitely come and vote. I will keep on voting until I die,” said Patel.

Mahendra said, “I am proud of my father. He went to vote despite being blind and unable to walk. Every citizen, and especially the youth, should take some inspiration from him.”
- Sapna Desai

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