Low turnout in Mumbai amid complaints of slow voting

Congress alleges names of several voters were missing from electoral rolls; Uddhav says there were many complaints from electors about facilities outside the booths

Published - May 20, 2024 09:33 pm IST - Mumbai:

Long queue seen outside a polling station below Ghatkopar Mankhurd Link Road flyover in Mumbai on May 20, 2024

Long queue seen outside a polling station below Ghatkopar Mankhurd Link Road flyover in Mumbai on May 20, 2024 | Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

Despite an energetic campaign for 13 highly contested seats in the fifth and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) saw low voter turnout, plagued by complaints of missing names, inadequate facilities, and slow voting procedures, with the Shiv Sena (UBT) and Congress raising concerns.

Voters in several parts of the country’s financial capital reported waiting in long lines for over an hour because of the slow voting pace. Many left without casting their vote due to the lengthy wait, compounded by the humid and scorching temperatures.

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Maharashtra had recorded 49.01% average polling as of 6 p.m., the lowest among all States which voted on Monday, lower than the 55.38% turnout in 2019.

Of the 13 constituencies spread across the Mumbai region and north Maharashtra, the highest turnout was at Dindori in Nashik district at 57.06%, while the lowest was in Kalyan in Thane district at 41.70%, according to the provisional data from the Election Commission (EC). Among the other seats, Palghar recorded 54.32% polling, Nashik 51.16%, Bhiwandi 48.89%, Dhule 48.81%, Mumbai North 46.91%, Mumbai North Central 47.32%, Mumbai North East 48.67%, Mumbai North West 49.79%, Mumbai South 44.22%, Mumbai South Central 48.26% and Thane 45.38%, shows the EC data.

The western State which went to polls in five phases, sends 48 MPs to the Lower House, second only to Uttar Pradesh’s 80.

“We came to the booth at 12.30 p.m., and now it is already 1.30 p.m. I don’t understand how long we need to wait. There is no proper seating arrangement, only three booths and so many people waiting,” said Sneha Kumar (22), a first-time voter waiting in line to cast her vote in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum cluster.

Bablu Kunchikorve, a voter from the Dharavi transit camp, said, “We’ve been standing in line for the past two hours. Finally, our turn came after two hours. The voting process has started slowly. As a result, many people have had to wait in line. Voting is crucial for democracy. My wife and I have come. We arrived at 12.30 p.m. and it’s 3 p.m. already.”

‘Deliberately deleted’

Congress leader Muzaffar Hussain alleged names of several voters from Mira Road-Bhayandar and Thane were missing from the electoral rolls. “Without verifying and checking, the EC has deliberately deleted the names of many voters from the list. These are the same people who had voted in the 2019 and previous elections. They have been the residents of Mira Road and Bhayander for years. They have never left their homes. The EC has targeted only a specific community in their list where they fear the votes would not favour the ruling government in power.”

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya criticised the poll body for the slow pace of voting in Mumbai, alleging that EC officials were delaying voting in areas where his party traditionally received more votes. Mr. Uddhav Thackeray appealed to voters to ensure they cast their ballots and report the names of EC staff responsible for the delays, promising action against them. He said there were many complaints from electors about facilities outside the booths.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm among voters, but polling officials are delaying the voting process in many centres at the government’s behest. I request the voters to stay at polling centres until they cast their votes, even if it takes until morning. There is no drinking water facility at the station for voters,” the former Chief Minister said. While Mr. Aaditya took to X saying, “A lot of complaints from voters about the facilities outside the booths @ECISVEEP. At least having the voter lines in shade/ fans could help. They don’t want much, just basics to stay cool. Please look into it.”

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis quickly responded to the complaints and urged the EC to address the complaints of the slow voting process in the city.

“I have requested the EC to look into the complaints of the slow pace of voting in Mumbai. There have been several complaints of the overall polling pace being very slow,” he said. The BJP leader also asked the EC officials to discuss the matter with the Collectors of Mumbai City and Mumbai Suburban District and ensure voters do not face any issues due to the slow voting process.

Use of phones

Confusion over usage of mobile phones also persisted throughout the day with official orders disallowing handsets within 100 metres of the polling booth. With most voters carrying one, the presiding officers directed voters to switch off their gadgets before entering the polling station.

A 56-year-old election officer died after suffering a cardiac attack while performing duties at a booth in the Mumbai South constituency.

Meanwhile, several prominent persons, including Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Union Minister Piyush Goyal, industrialists Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani and his wife Nita Ambani, Anil Ambani, actor Akshay Kumar, who cast his first vote after having received Indian citizenship, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and cricketers Ajinkya Rahane and Suryakumar Yadav, stepped out to exercise their franchise in the metropolis. Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das, Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran, former Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, actor Janhvi Kapoor, actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar and Marathi theatre actor Prashant Damle also cast their votes.

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