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How to woo lazy voters

MiD DAY brings you the voting turnouts in different wards in the last BMC elections in 2007, and what authorities are doing to increase the numbers

When the roads are rocky and pothole-laden, when the gardens look squalid, when the sewers overflow - we are all too ready to point fingers at the apathy of the civic body. But when it's our turn to show some enterprise and trudge to the nearest booth and vote for change, it is the same malady of apathy that gets the better of us. In 2007, a shameful 46 per cent of the city's population cast votes, with the remaining 54 per cent deciding to cash in on a holiday.

MiD DAY did some digging to find out which constituencies and wards were conscientious in exercising their rights in the last civic body elections held in 2007, which of them performed lamentably, and what different bodies are doing to make the numbers go up this time.

The city is divided into 227 constituencies, each of which elects a representative to the BMC. "The election commission has been trying to create awareness and a democratic consciousness among people, but all their efforts are lost on the voters. People prefer not to vote," said an official from the election department of
the BMC.


Open to all: The officials said that the polling booths have been
constructed on the ground floor, so that senior citizens and disabled
persons can exercise their right to vote. Representation pic


In 2007, maximum footfalls were recorded in the K-East ward, which covers areas like Andheri (East), Jogeshwari (East) and Vile Parle (East) with a turnout of 2,87,966 voters. The lowest turnout was recorded in B-Ward in SoBo, with an apalling 37,235 voters. It is worth mentioning, however, that the former has 15 constituencies within its precincts, while B ward has only three. F (North) ward - which includes Dadar and Sion - had the poorest voter turnout, recording a paltry count of 1,58,000 voters, in spite of the 10 constituencies within its boundaries.

Constituencies count
Colaba, constituency number 227 with a population of about 40,000-45,000 people, recorded the poorest attendance of 3,145 voters. Dadar (West), constituency number 185, registered a maximum 24,764 votes, while constituency number 67 in Andheri (East) recorded a footfall of 24,200 votes.

Weekday vote
This time, the election commission has abandoned the usual practice of holding elections on a holiday, deciding to conduct polls on a weekday instead, so that voters cannot abscond to nearby holiday destinations.

"We are constructing most of the polling booths on the ground floor, so that senior citizens and disabled persons can exercise their right to vote.

We have told the BMC's Public Relations department to spread awareness and inform citizens of their fundamental right to vote. They have been given a CD from the Election Commission," said Ramesh Arote, assistant election officer, BMC.

He added, "The PR department will advertise in the newspapers and other media, urging people to vote. Banners spreading the same message will be put up on buses, and hoardings will be put up as well."

Politicos Say
Vinod Shekhar, SoBo corporator from the Congress, was of the opinion that people generally do not take the civic polls seriously, as not much publicity is generated around them, as is done before the assembly
elections.

"Conducting the polls on a working day is a good idea, as long as employers give their workers time to go out and cast their votes.  We are hoping that corporate firms and other offices will make it mandatory for people to vote."

Rahul Shewale, corporator from Shiv Sena said, "It is necessary for all the eligible people to cast their votes. It is their right. They usually stay at home, preferring to blame the elected representatives. The BMC's voters list is also to blame. Many voters come to the booths, but return because of their names do not feature in the list."





NGO
James John of the NGO Action for good Governance and Networking in India (AGNI) said that it was heartening to see that the authorities are roping in the help of NGOs to spread awareness about voting. "But it is necessary for them to target groups who work for governance, elections, voting, citizens and awareness. They should not include organisations that harbour political biases. He added that voters should cast their votes intelligently, saying, "They should not vote for people with a criminal background."

Citizens speak
I don't subscribe to the system of voting because all the officials are corrupt, including those chosen by the public
-- Vishal Rathod, Kandivli

We are holding street plays and putting up posters so to inculcate the benefits of voting in citizens. Authorities do not spread much awareness
-- Akash Bharati, student

I did vote once, but I don't think it makes any difference to society or the city. So I won't go this time
-- Richard Johnny, Goregaon

I cast my vote religiously, as it my right to do so. But it is better if the elections were held on a holiday, as I will have to get up at 5 am and go to the booth to cast my vote, before I get to work
-- Jitubhai Shah, Borivli 

I catch the 7:15 am train to CST every morning. How am I supposed to go out and vote? Voting is a right and it should be held on a holiday
-- Ahmed Azim Khan, Mankhurd

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