Mumbai: Almost every city across India, is decking up for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in their own unique way. Be it the display of vibrant gigantic cut-outs of political leaders, or graffiti on walls and buildings painted with colours of political parties. It is as if the nation is ready to embrace the elections with grandeur, except Mumbai. The scenario in this city is a bit different from what major parts of the country are witnessing.
For both reporters who come from two vibrant and politically charged cities, Paris and Kolkata, this voter fatigue or disdain was surprising. People seemed laid back and immensely disinterested in the entire process. After speaking to many citizens, they seemed to not be reflecting on candidates, parties and making a responsible, studied choice. Shocking as it may seem, many voters shared that they voted for a candidate or a party based on the choice of their parent or spouse. This presumptuous voting is not the kind one would expect in the financial capital of India.
“People seem disillusioned since a long period of time, so now it doesn’t really matter to them which party forms the government,” said a tutor. When asked if he is going out to vote this year he stated, “Though I am not a frequent voter yet I may just vote this year, since I strongly oppose this government.” There has been little or no display of splendour for the upcoming elections among citizens of Mumbai.
The event which is labelled as, “Desh ka maha tyohar” (Country’s largest festival) by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, seems to have no such effect on the lives of the majority in Mumbai. Politics and elections in particular of a Mumbaikar, seem to be a humdrum affair. “There used to be rallies and roadshows earlier in the 1980’s, wherein Bollywood celebrities too would participate. People would flock to the streets to see them and their leaders. Elections at that time used to feel more of a festival than now,” said Hemant Adarkar, a retired professional. “Now people don’t even know who their local candidate is,” he further stated.
A US BPO employee, Harsh Verma, shared the same sentiments. “He said he cannot give a specific reason why he votes for the party that he has been voting for. “I have voted for this one party since the beginning, but I cannot tell you any one reason why I vote for them,” he said.
Voters across the city stated that since they do not see many political rallies, candidates or mega promotions, most of them lack such information. “I am aware of the upcoming elections, but I don’t know the exact date of polls. There have been no rallies and we do not see any promotions,” said Shiloo Chhetri, a senior citizen residing at Pali Hill.
On the contrary, youth of Mumbai seem more enthusiastic about the upcoming polls. With political parties shifting to digital campaigns, they have succeeded in acquiring the attention of the youth. “We can already feel the buzz of the elections. Whenever we log into our social media accounts, we get pop-ups and notifications from political parties,” said Aman Agarwal, a student.
In the last few months there have been a number of Bollywood films on the theme of nationalism. Though film-makers have denied that it is government propaganda, it seems to have influenced the youth who enjoyed these films. “Through films like Uri and the yet-to-be-released Narendra Modi biopic, the government has succeeded in garnering attention of a large number of people. This has helped our peers as we now have political conversations amongst each other, which we lacked earlier. These films have made us more politically aware,” said Siddharth Gumastha, a student studying company secretaryship.
First-time voters seem aware of their expectations from parties and candidates. Compared to their elders, they are more optimistic and have proper clarity of thought. They believe their vote can literally help change India. “We are voting for the first time and hence it is important for us to choose our leaders wisely, as these people will determine the future of our careers. With shrinking employment opportunities, we hope our vote will succeed in bringing about a change in the nation,” said first year student Anjali Jadhav