Journos should learn a lesson from Mumbai’s voter turnout

17 Feb,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

So, as cynical journalists had assumed, a quarter of the way into Anna Hazare’s movement last year, this great upsurge of feeling for the country by young India was something of a hoax. When it came down to it – exercising your franchise, the biggest right and responsibility in a democracy – Mumbai has been found wanting. Hindustan Times’ headline puts it most succinctly: “Typical. Apathetic. Mumbai”.

 

Newspapers also concentrated on rich and young Mumbai, both of which failed to show up. The Indian Express didn’t hold back taking about Mumbai sticking to its normal habit, “with voter disinterest in a handful of plush areas dragging down overall voter percentages”.

 

As The Times of India points out, “The tony neighbourhoods of Colaba, Churchgate and Cuffe Parade repeated their past record with a measly turnout of 34 per cent, the lowest in the city.”

 

The various reasons given for this voter apathy have been the chance for a long vacation, confusion over voter lists and general disorganisation. One woman is quoted about complaining that it took hour half an hour to vote – obviously too big a price to pay.

 

As Mid-Day says in its editorial, “It is all very well to tweet about how this city is going to the dogs, create a Facebook page on how the roads are pathetic or organise candlelight marches to protest against terror attacks. The proof of the pudding is always in the eating. On that count, Mumbai is starving itself.”

 

The Hindustan Times also went straight for the jugular – young people who are all aware and concerned in cyberspace but cannot translate that fervour into real life. (Aside to Election Commission: how about online voting for our youth who can’t be bothered to walk to a polling booth?)

 

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On TV on Friday morning, the focus, for me, had to be on the Hindi and Marathi channels since the English channels were not unnaturally concerned with other news – Amitabh Bachchan’s operation, a fleeting glimpse of Aishwariya Rai carrying a baby bundle, the killing of two Indian fishermen by an Italian ship and something to do with Salma Hayek, which I didn’t bother to find out about.

 

Sahara Mumbai, Sahara Samay and Star News suspended their precious stones and astrological forecast sections to provide trends, results and analysis of the elections in Maharashtra.

 

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Perhaps in Mumbai’s voting pattern there is a lesson for journalists not to be too taken up with marketing hype about young India and to get carried away with what is said on social media. You have to keep track of everything but need not believe everything you hear and see on the Internet.

 

Also, it is important to consider that India is not a society or a nation under threat or on the verge of civil war (whatever TV may tell you every night). We have no need for a social revolution like the Middle East for instance. Therefore, passion in cyberspace will not necessarily translate into anything at all in real life.

 

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