Nearly 14 million Mumbai residents are eligible to vote Thursday for
the first time since the terror attack on India's commercial capital,
last November. Although the city's congested roads, an influx of
migrants and access to drinking water are among major concerns, many
voters say at the top of their list is security. That has inspired
some candidates to call for a unified national security agenda.
was no shortage of boisterous campaign rallies and political star power
in India's financial capital, as Mumbai residents prepared to cast
their first vote in a national election since the terror attacks.
Among the visiting political figures - Sonia Gandhi, the head of the Congress Party.
Mrs. Gandhi says Mumbai is the only city which knows how to smile in the face of adversity.
Congress Party heads the national governing coalition. The main
opposition party, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), has tried to paint
Congress as soft on terrorism, in wake of the attacks here five months
ago, in which about 170 people died.
Vijay Surve says voters
are entering the polls with security as their main concern. He heads a
local branch of the opposition Hinduist right-wing Shiv Sena, allied
with the BJP.
"There has been a bomb explosion in our
India," he said. "The whole population has been shaken away from
their sleep. I can confidently say that the whole course of this
election will be decided by this attack."
says he and others braved terrorist gunfire to rescue neighbors, after
the lack of a quick response by authorities to the attack.
tried calling the cops, tried calling the commanders and the
administration, no one responded. Zero. Absolutely zero. The
government´s response was completely zero," he said.
Party incumbent member of Parliament Milind Deora defends how the
response was handled and says a national security agenda is being put
"It is an attack that has required us - and it has
happened - to look at our entire security establishment, from a
national level to a local level," said Deora.
intends to introduce a investigation agency to centralize national and
state-level intelligence, as well as various security forces. The
opposition Shiv Sena is campaigning for more autonomy for local police,
so immediate action can be taken at the ground level.
that shook Mumbai has also inspired new, independent candidates to
enter the local political arena. Bank executive Meera Sanyal is
contesting the South Mumbai parliament seat.
"There is a great
sense of angst and emotion about the event itself, but also there is a
sense of anger against the government and apathy about government has
shown towards critical issues that concern the people," said Sanyal.
major support is said to come from the middle class, which blames
endemic corruption in Indian politics for the intelligence lapses
during the Mumbai attack.
Although the attack appears to have
shaken some eligible voters out of apathy, political analysts here
predict they will have little impact - saying that the majority of
voters are likely to continue their tradition of casting ballots on the
basis of party loyalty, religion or caste.