Mumbai is not the most politically active city. Voter turn out at national and municipal elections is awful, far below the national average.
But Mumbai wasn’t always like this.The growth of political consciousness started after the establishment of the Bombay Presidency Association on 31 January 1885. During the Independence movement, rallies were constantly held in the city’s many maidans, with Mahatama Gandhi addressing his biggest rally here and Lokmanya Tilak’s inflammatory and controversial daily, Kesari, read by Mumbaikars cover to cover. The Quit India rebellion was promulgated on 7 August 1942 by the Congress in a public meeting at Gowalia Tank and the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny of 18 February 1946 in Bombay marked the first and most serious revolt by the Indian sailors of the Royal Indian Navy against British rule. Mumbai was also one of the very first city’s to unionize – The Bombay Millowners’ Association was formed in February 1875 by Dinshaw Maneckji Petit.
Part of the reason for the decline of political participation is the lack of public space in Mumbai.The nexus between builders and politicians has left no public spaces for the public: the city’s parks and maidans have vanished. Mumbai has perhaps the least amount of open space per person in India — 0.03 acres per 1,000 people, as opposed to the norm of 4 acres per 1,000 residents. Apart from Azad Maidan, there are no real locations for people to gather and protest. The last bastion of public space, Shivaji Park in Bandra, home to numerous political rallies post independence, became a ‘silence zone’.In May 2010, the Bombay High Court declared the ground as a silence zone after residents filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in September 2009, complaining about the sound pollution in the area.