Will city turn the corner in voter turnout?

VotesA polling booth in Andheri during the elections in 2009.

Agent of Change: The City Voter

A Mumbaikar has never really been a voting enthusiast. More so, if he has a south Mumbai address. But this year, the birth of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led to a super turnout in the country's political capital. So, will India's financial capital stage a turnaround and drive voters to the polling booths? Or will tedium take over the better of their spirits, like always. For instance, despite a massive public outcry after the 26/11 terror attacks in 2008, the voter turnout in Mumbai remained abysmal at less than 44 per cent in the Lok Sabha elections that followed four months later.

With the city accounting for six Lok Sabha seats and 36 of the total 288 Assembly seats in the state, Mumbaikars are naturally sought after voters. And though the city has been notorious for poor voter turnouts, there is optimism among activists and psephologists this time around.

Price rise that directly affects the middle-class and the corruption exposés have prodded voters across the country, especially in urban areas, to come out and vote. "Pockets such as Greater Kailash in New Delhi that always had low turnout suddenly saw 70 per cent people casting their votes - an AAP affect. We can hope something similar in south Mumbai where voters have always shunned elections," says Ajit Ranade, economist with AV Birla group.

Ranade's optimism is borne out by official data. In a drive undertaken by the collector over the last 18 months, 6.28 lakh new voters have been registered in suburbs, taking the total number of registered voters to over 73 lakh. Similarly, 1.08 lakh new voters were added to the 26 lakh voters in the island city in the past one year. "The quantum of voter registrations, especially first-time voters, is much higher this time around," says C V Oak, island city collector. Moreover, the deletion of 12 lakh 'extra' names from electoral rolls will also naturally bump up the voter-turnout percentage.

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