Why are people so surprised that the voter turnout was so low in Mumbai? Wasn’t it kinda expected?
For one, the newspapers were pretty sure that this was going to happen anyway, the day the Election Commission announced the final dates. The long weekend was visible to calendar-watchers even then. Wonder why the EC missed it?
But there are other reasons too. This is Bombay (no matter what other names you use for it) and the city breeds an animal instinct in you, teaches you to look out for yourself, from the moment you enrol into school, or start taking the 8:10 fast to college. You squeeze in, you elbow somebody else in the ribs, you stamp on somebody else’s feet if necessary, but you have to be on that train and you can’t afford to miss out on the first lecture. As Bob Dylan sang out, rather dryly: “Now, they take him and they teach him and they groom him for life./And they set him on a path where he’s bound to get ill…” No wonder then that the Mumbai voter thinks – somewhat erroneously perhaps — national duty or governance issues are not his concern.
But, this seems to be too easy an answer, almost like a politician’s glib reply to the question. Undoubtedly, the city does encourage self-aggrandisement, but that’s only part of the whole picture and it might be downright silly to cast all Mumbaikars in the same mould. Part of the reason also could be the low Muslim voter turnout, as pointed out by M J Akbar in latest column (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Columnists/M-J-Akbar-The-missing-Mumbai-voters/articleshow/4477185.cms). But, this column feels that the main reason for voter apathy is the little choice that politicians and political parties have left on the polling booth table. The absurd drama of pre-poll alliances, the naked greed on display for power and pelf, the glaring absence of issues, the puerile name-calling…all of these reasons (and then some) added up to provide voters with the tipping point. Short holiday? Of course. Voting? Bah!