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BMC elections: Floats, street plays, student rallies to improve turnout

In civic wards — the lowest turnout was recorded in South Mumbai wards such as A, D, H West and K West.

Written by Arita Sarkar | Mumbai |
February 6, 2017 3:48:42 am
street-play-759 Students perform a street play in Versova as part of the EC initiative. Santosh Parab

Voter participation in civic elections in the city is hardly comparable to the turnout in the Parliament or Assembly polls. But the Maharashtra Election Commission wants to ensure that the turnout in the upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation polls is at least 60 per cent, and to that end has launched several measures to spread awareness among voters about the elections. In the past 25 years, voter turnout in Mumbai’s civic polls touched a high of 49.1 per cent in 1992 and a low of 42.1 per cent in 2002. During the last elections in 2012, the voter turnout was only 45 per cent. In civic wards — the lowest turnout was recorded in South Mumbai wards such as A, D, H West and K West.

The commission then put up a specially designed float in public places to spread awareness about the polls and organised street plays and rallies by students of the National Service Scheme Cell of Mumbai University.

The float, designed by the JJ School of Architecture, has been a feature in many parts of Mumbai since January 27 when it was kicked off from the Gateway of India, and it will travel to Thane after covering the Mumbai metropolitan region.

Two LED panels on the float display messages encouraging people to cast their vote for the polls on February 21. “So far, we have covered areas with high footfall such as Girgaum Chowpatty, Haji Ali, Shivaji Park, Kalanagar junction, Bandstand, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Juhu and Versova chowpatty.

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The float is parked on site for an entire day and the messages are played on loop,” said Subhash Dalvi, who is the civic official in-charge of the float.

Dalvi said that the float’s last stop will be Vaishali Nagar in Mulund on February 6.

“We came up with the idea of taking out a float for the first time which will help spread voter awareness for the upcoming elections in the municipal corporations in Mumbai and Thane,” said Jagdish More, public relations officer of the SEC. Even though the float was the SEC’s initiative, it is being managed by the corporations.

The BMC has roped in members of an NGO Shri Aastha Mahila Bachatgat to perform street plays to spread awareness among voters. “In crowded places like railway stations where parking spaces are not available, the street plays take the message forward. Apart from the site where the float is parked, the NGO has performed plays at Andheri and Borivli stations,” he said.

The members of the NGO had just 15 days to prepare for the play. “We have always been involved in performance of plays with a social message. For the elections, we have come up with 20-minute-long plays. We have created scenes showing a candidate giving out bribes and showing the benefits of voting for the better candidate,” said Ashwini

Borude, a member of the NGO. Each of the five-minute-long acts in the plays has six to seven performers, which include professional theatre actors as well as college students who do at least half a dozen such shows daily.

The BMC has also engaged students from the NSS cell of the University of Mumbai who have been taking out rallies to promote the message of voting at CST station, Marine Drive, Bandra station, Chembur station and Ghatkopar station. Dr Vishnu Bhandare, the NSS coordinator of Siddharth College at Fort, said that students from several colleges have participated in these rallies.

“We had one two-hour-long rally at CST station and concluded it at Oval Maidan in which 162 students and three professors from Siddharth college, Nirmala Niketan College of Home Science formed human chains and held placards bearing messages of voter awareness and it was a wonderful experience,” he said.

Colleges like Khalsa college and Ambedkar college have taken out similar rallies in Dadar, RD National college and Mithibai college held rallies in the western suburbs, and Somaiya college in the eastern suburbs. Dalvi said that close to 750 smaller NGOs have been told to help with the door-to-door campaign.

Over 8,000 volunteers who have been working with the Swach Mumbai Prabodhan Abhiyaan will soon visit each household to request people to go out and cast their votes on February 21. “Apart from putting up posters in many buildings and railway stations, we will also continue to conduct rallies closer to the date of voting,” he said.

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