Why I will vote ‘NOTA’ this election

A Lower Parel resident explains why she will vote for NOTA in the BMC elections

I returned to India in 2012, after having lived abroad for almost 20 years. I had missed out on voting during all those years when I was away. Needless to say, I was delighted to cast my vote in the Lok Sabha and the Maharashtra Assembly elections in 2014.

I live in Lower Parel. This is an area of Mumbai that has grown rapidly in terms of commercial and residential buildings. However, nobody has given a thought to the crumbling infrastructure that has just not kept pace with the expansion. This is a very dynamic area of Mumbai, it houses the BDD and many other chawls, as also some swanky buildings. No matter where one lives, whether in the chawls or in a luxury apartment, everybody here has to deal with the same infrastructure issues like roads, traffic, pavements that have been taken over by shops and hawkers, unauthorised parking on both sides of the road, etc. Things have now almost reached a tipping point, where if we as citizens don’t act, Lower Parel is a disaster waiting to happen.

Therefore, for me, the municipal elections are just as, or maybe even more important than the Lok Sabha and the Assembly polls. These impact my day-to-day life, or simply put, my survival. I have been getting increasingly involved in the local ALM (Advanced Locality Management) and have been interacting with other residents of the area. I have also been keenly following various political parties in the fray and the selection of their candidates. And now, as the campaigning reaches its crescendo, I try and listen to every possible campaign speech.

It is interesting to note that every political party is aware of the crumbling infrastructure of Lower Parel, but nobody is willing to accept responsibility for its breakdown and nobody is coming forth with a manifesto that offers solutions for this. As expected, this municipal election is turning out to be a battle between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, and all that is happening is only a lot of mud-slinging. The BJP has not even fielded a candidate in our ward, maybe because it is a big Sena stronghold.

I had a chance to attend Uddhav Thackeray’s election meeting on G.K. Marg. The local MP and MLA also spoke. I was amazed to see how politicians can play with the psyche of the common man, how they tried to say that there is an attempt being made to separate Mumbai from Maharashtra, how Mumbai should not become dependent on the centre, how the Mumbaikars should not get swayed by promises of development.

To hear that the Mumbai Municipality is the most transparent local body in the country as per some report from Delhi, when only sub-standard roads are built, when the Lalbaug flyover is developing cracks within 10 years, when there is no place for a school bus to park, when little children have to battle traffic to climb into their school bus, when garbage lies all over on the street, is an irony that is simply too important to be ignored.

This is a wake-up call for all the Mumbaikars. This is your chance to make sure you tell your local corporator that you will hold him/her accountable. It does not matter who controls the BMC, we cannot allow our day-to-day life to become a struggle for survival because we are deprived of basic amenities that any municipality should provide us, more so when it has deposits of Rs. 51,000 crores and a yearly budget of Rs. 37,000 crores. To say that anybody who points out any flaws in the administration is against Mumbai and the Marathi manoos is the sort of dangerous populism that sells well during an election campaign, but effectively eliminates any chance of real progress on the ground for all of us. If all the parties in this election are only going to be blaming everybody else for Mumbai’s plight, I think it’s time we send them a clear message. Vote NOTA.

About the author: Sujata Sridhar grew up in Pune. She has a Master's degree in German from the University of Pune, and has been a German language teacher at various Goethe Institutes in India and abroad. She has lived in various cities in India, and then overseas for almost 20 years because of her husband's job. 
Sujata writes: "I now live in Lower Parel, the buzz of which I absolutely love. I admire my neighbours in the iconic BDD chawls. Life here is a microcosm of the maximum city Mumbai, where every occasion is celebrated at the maximum level in minimum space, where people's hearts are larger than their homes."