01 Mar 2024  |   05:31am IST

Will the vote share of youth increase?

It is highly likely that the dates for the upcoming general elections will be announced in the coming five to six days. As one would expect, the Prime Minister has been inaugurating projects and announcing new ones one after the other. Although the ruling BJP seems to have drafted a solid plan to win the maximum number of seats, no political party can ignore the record increase in the number of first-time voters who will exercise their right of casting votes. Therefore, the Ministry of Education launched the ‘Mera Pehla Vote Desh Ke Liye’ campaign (My first vote for the country) in higher education institutions from Wednesday, which will run till March 6. The government has called the drive as an awareness campaign for youth to become an active part of the democracy, but it is just another form of Viksit Bharat Yatra. In short, it’s a campaign for the ruling party at the expense of taxpayers’ money. 

In every election there will be first-time voters, but the increase in that number is significant this time. The final voters’ lists made public by States such as West Bengal, Orissa, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu show that the number of first-time voters has increased by a few lakhs. For context, there are 9.12 crore voters in the State of Maharashtra whose population is 13.5 crore. Out of those 9.12 crore, 10.18 lakh are the first-time voters. Bihar, where Nitish Kumar took a U-turn to form the government once again with the BJP, has 9.26 lakh voters in the 18-19 age group. In Kerala, the first time voters have increased by 1.25 lakh, while the number is 5.25 lakh in Andhra Pradesh. This means that the young voters will play a crucial role in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, if they exercise their right to cast their votes. So, it is no surprise that the ruling party has focused on this group of voters. The question is, how many young voters cast their vote and on what criteria. 

The present generation is highly influenced by social media which has been the case since the 2014 elections. However, the number of social media users have gone drastically up in the past 10 years, making it the most effective tool for the political parties to communicate. As per a report, currently 51.70 crore Indians use Facebook while the number is more than 54 crore for WhatsApp. Around 70% of these users are youngsters, which indicates that the upcoming polls will largely be fought over social media. Although the number of first-time voters is way more than in the 2014 elections, will the youth cast their votes? Or will, as usual, they be upset over the entire election process? The lawmakers on an average are aged between 65 and 70 years, to whom the present generation are not able to relate to. 

Leaders constantly defect to other parties for their own selfish gains, which has led to instability, and this impacts burning issues such as unemployment amongst youth. This is one of the major reasons young voters do not seem enthusiastic about casting their votes. Even when some do, they cast their vote as NOTA. One cannot deny the fact that the young generation despise the present state of democracy, which is dangerous for a nation like India. 

In fact, young voters had played a significant role in the past elections which changed the future course of the country. It was youth who vehemently fought against the Emergency between 1975 and 1977 under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan, which led to Congress’ collapse in the 1977 elections. That was the first time a non-Congress government rose to power in post-Independence India. V P Singh who became prime minister in 1989 had a strong backing of the youth. A party with mostly young leaders formed the government in the North Eastern state of Assam in 1985. This means that youth in the past have played an important role in revolutionising the Indian political scene and it remains to be seen whether that will be the key for this year’s elections too. 


Iddhar Udhar