Mumbai: Going out to vote for the February 21 civic elections promises to be a rewarding culinary experience for Mumbaikars. In a unique initiative, over 7,000 restaurants, hotels, pubs and bars will offer their patrons special discounts or freebies if they show the indelible mark on their fingers as proof of having voted, a top official said here on Friday.
“We have noticed that Mumbaikars are generally not very responsive during elections, the same attitude was witnessed in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra assembly elections,” said Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association President (AHAR) Adarsh Shetty. This year, State Election Commissioner J.S. Saharia invited AHAR to come up with suggestions to lure more Mumbaikars to step out and exercise their franchise.
“We immediately offered this suggestion which was liked by the SEC and later our members also wholeheartedly approved of it,” Shetty told IANS. So next Tuesday (voting day), all AHAR-member establishments will give discounts or freebies to those who have taken part in the democratic exercise between the restaurant’s timings, Shetty said.
“There could be small discounts on the food bills, extra helpings or side-dishes, maybe a complimentary starter, additional free gravy or chutneys. We have not made it compulsory and establishments will offer whatever suits them,” he said.
The participating member-restaurants include small eateries, family joints, bars or pubs (though it’s a dry day, food will be served), fine-diners and even starred hotels. In the 2012 elections to BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the turnout was just 44.6 per cent, or only 4.60 million of the city’s 10.3 million voters casting votes. The situation improved during the 2014 assembly elections when Mumbai recorded 53 per cent turnout — the best since 1991 but far lower than the state average of 64 per cent. Among the reasons cited by officials then was that Mumbaikars skipped elections leaving the city to chill out at nearby hill stations, sea resorts or amusement parks on polling day, which is declared a holiday, leading to a sharp drop in voting percentages. Shetty said this is the first time the hoteliers are contributing to boosting voter attendance at polling stations for taking part in the important democratic exercise.