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Mumbai civic polls: Hotels, cab services put their weight behind push to drive up voters' turnout

44% voter turnout in 2012. While the state election commission launched a plethora of apps to increase voter awareness, this year, it?s interestingly the civic organisations, NGOs, eateries that are encouraging Mumbaikars to go out and vote. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Mumbai, Maharashtra, India Feb 20, 2017, 02.58 PM (IST) Sanjana Chowhan

Social media platforms and mobile apps have been pressed into service for pushing up the voters' turnout in Mumbai's civic polls due to be held on Tuesday.   BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, the richest municipal corporation in Mumbai, India's financial capital, threw up a dismal 44 per cent voter turnout in 2012.

While the State Election Commission launched a plethora of apps to increase voter awareness, this year, it’s interestingly the civic organisations, NGOs, eateries and even cab services that are encouraging Mumbaikars to go out and vote.

 

Mumbai civic polls (Facebook)

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Over 7,000 restaurants, hotels, pubs and bars are also offering voters special discounts or freebies if they show the indelible mark on their fingers as proof of having voted. This came after State Election Commissioner JS Saharia invited the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) to come up with suggestions to lure more Mumbaikars to step out and exercise their franchise.

 

Over 7,000 restaurants, hotels, pubs and bars are also offering voters special discounts or freebies if they show the indelible mark on their fingers as proof of having voted. (Facebook)

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"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," said Adarsh Shetty, President of AHAR.

“I think it was frustrating to see people bitterly complain about amenities, but also not show up to polling booths,” says Lishu Singhvi, a third year college student and founder of Vote for Mumbai, a campaign started to encourage first-time voters.

 

Civic organisations, NGOs, eateries and even cab services are encouraging Mumbaikars to go out and vote. (Facebook)

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Not only has Singhvi garnered immense support digitally, but has even mobilised on ground teams to spread awareness at eateries and bars. “We have tied up with 45 colleges who volunteer at restaurants and get them to push our campaign further.”

Given that the five major political parties haven’t been able to shake off the voter apathy in the past, campaigns like Singhvi’s are even pressing rappers into action this year.

Operation Black Dot, which deems itself an apolitical initiative from social quotient to make voting easy, engaging and fun is also taking the comic route

Besides releasing informative guidebooks on electoral know how, these guys are also inviting pledges (now well over 12 lakh), to ensure it’s not just a one-way campaign.

“The pledges make for a two way communication because otherwise there’s no way of telling whether people have actually heard you,” says COO Ruben Mascarenhas.

While political parties vie hard for votes in an already minuscule voter base, it will be interesting to see if these painstaking, meticulous measures will cross the dreaded 44 per cent tomorrow.

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