Mumbai: The contests to elect new members of the 227-member cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Tuesday saw a record 55.28 per cent polling. This is highest ever and over 10 per cent more than the voting percentage in the last elections.
Till the 2017 elections, the polling percent of 49% in the year 1992 was the highest which Mumbai has recorded. Otherwise, India's commercial hub where people are more inclined towards holidaying on polling day than stand in queue to exercise their democratic right, has registered a poll percentage of 44 as an average in last civic elections.
The State Election Commission, NGOs and celebrities, who ran campaigns and issued appeals to voters to come out and exercise their democratic right, must be satisfied that their efforts did not go waste and bore fruits.
While the efforts by this respected lot cannot be undermined, those present in the city on the polling day have different version to narrate the reason behind the record voter turnout on Tuesday. And, for them the reasons varied from area to area, and ward to ward - based on the political preferences of the people residing there.
If areas like Dadar, Prabhadevi and Parel, and also Antop Hill, Kurla, Malad and Bhendi Bazaar witnessed high voter turnout, areas like Dahisar, Borivali, Kandiwali and Ghatkopar were devoid of the enthusiasm on the polling day.
Political activists who kept a watch on the polling day said that areas like Dadar, Prabhadevi and Parel are dominated by the Marathi speaking Maharashtrians, and the reason why they came out in such a large number to vote was because of the emotional appeal by the Shiv Sena - the party which broke alliance with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and decided to contest the BMC elections alone.
There are some other who say that the Marathi speaking Maharashtrians were visibly angry over the way the BJP was treating the Sena, with some even having a feeling that the former was actually hatching conspiracies to finish off the later. This is why senior Sainiks, retired and more than 60 years of age were seen in many of the wards driving people to the polling booths.
In contrast to this, areas like Dahisar, Borivali, Kandivali and Ghatkopar where Gujaratis are in majority did not come out to vote as they did especially in the 2014 General Elections. Activists who spoke to some of the people in these areas were told that as majority of Gujaratis - considered as BJP supporters, are businessmen and traders, and because they were hit by demonetisation more than any other class, they preferred to remain locked and enjoy the comforts of their home.
It is why the heavy turnout in areas dominated by the Marathi speaking Maharashtrians and stark contrast to this in the areas dominated by Gujaratis has on one hand relieved the Shiv Sena, and on the other, set the alarm bells ringing for the BJP.
But, why areas like Antop Hill, Kurla, Malad, Bhendi Bazaar and other Muslim dominated areas witnessed heavy voter turnout?
Opinions are divided over the reasons behind this surge. While some say it is because of the fiery speeches by the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leaders, especially its Chief Asaduddin Owaisi and his younger brother Akbaruddin Owaisi, some others say Muslims like people in other wards of the city too suffered because of demonetisation and wanted to teach the ruling party a lesson.
However, there was no visible wave among the Muslims in favour of any specific political party say Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Samajwadi Party (SP) or the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
Activists who spoke to Muslims in areas dominated by them were told that they were not swayed by any emotional talks, instead they voted keeping in mind the local issues and for the candidates who they thought will help them in providing basic amenities like water, electricity and drainage.
Like in Govandi - the assembly constituency represented by Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Abu Asim Azmi, support was seemingly in favour of Rukhsana Nazim and other SP candidates.
But, in Maloni, Malad which recorded about 54 per cent voter turnout, AIMIM candidate Aaliya Khan believes the support was in her favour.
Likewise, Congress candidates Ashraf Azmi and his wife contesting the polls from ward no 165 and 167 in Kurla feels that majority of the people in the two wards voted for him. Both the wards recorded around 55 per cent voting.
Interestingly, Exit Polls released after the polling also gave the Shiv Sena an edge over the others. According to their assemssents, the Shiv Sena will emerge as the single largest party yet again, bagging 86 to 92 seats. The BJP according to the Exit Polls is second with 80 to 88 seats, Congress is next with 30 to 35 seats.
As per the existing position, Shiv Sena has 75 - maximum number of corporators and ruling the Mumbai Mahanagar Palika in alliance with the BJP which has 31 members.
Congress has a total of 52 members, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has 13 members and others including Abu Asim Azmi led Samajwadi Party (SP) and independents have a total of 28 members.
the AIMIM currently has no member in Mumbai, as the Owaisi led Hyderabad based party is contesting the Mumbai BMC Elections for the first time.