Hundreds of thousands of voters stepping out to exercise their franchise in the civic elections here had some pleasant surprises in store, with various mouth-watering offers from hotels and restaurants on Tuesday.

Over 7,000 hotels, restaurants, pubs, family eateries, fine-diners and others offered either varying discounts on all orders or included freebies for voters.

“All they required was to display the indelible ink mark on their fingers to avail the discounts,” said Indian Hotel & Restaurants Association President Adarsh Shetty.

Similarly, the Hotel & Restaurant Association of Western India (HRWAI), founded by the industrialist and Bharat Ratna, the late J.R.D. Tata, went a step ahead by offering discounts to all voters till February 23 on all food bills and room bookings.

HRAWI President Dilip Datwani said a formal letter has been sent to all its member-establishments as their contribution to the efforts of State Election Commission to boost voter turnout in Maharashtra, especially in urban centres where it has averaged below 50 per cent.

Similar gestures were made by local hoteliers in Thane, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nagpur, which also voted for civic elections on Tuesday.

A leading Mumbai perfumes exporter and retailer, Al Noor Perfumes, offered 40 per cent discount on all bulk or retail purchases made by voters, its proprietor Junaid A. Razzak said.

A feeble 100-year-old Ramabai Shirke from Borivali was brought to cast her vote, lifted physically by her young grandson, and scores of other voters made way for her and clapped after she voted and came out of a polling station.

In neighbouring Ulhasnagar town of Thane, a 102-year-old man, revered as Baba Guruji, was brought by his family and relatives to vote at a polling centre.

Two nervous grooms — Ankit Lende from Colaba and Mahesh Navale from Parel — in full wedding attire with Sherwani, Pheta and Sehra, first went to local polling booths to cast their votes before proceeding for the marriage rituals with their waiting brides.

They got up early and decided to complete their civic duty as voters ahead of the wedding “muhurat” scheduled around noon, as many other voters lustily cheered and complimented them.

In the 2012 elections to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the turnout was just 44.6 per cent, with only 4.60 million of the city’s 10.3 million voters casting their votes.

The situation improved during the 2014 assembly elections when Mumbai recorded 53 per cent turnout — the best since 1991 but far lower than the state average of 64 per cent.

Among the reasons cited by officials then was that Mumbaikars skipped elections, leaving the city to chill out at nearby hill stations, sea resorts or amusement parks on polling day, which is declared a holiday, leading to a sharp drop in voting percentage.

First Published | 21 February 2017 7:55 PM
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