An estimated 8.1 crore new voters, who did not get to vote in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as they were below the age of 18 years (the minimum age to be eligible to vote) will be exercising their franchise for the first time and are expected to be the ‘kingmakers’ in the upcoming crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections and all the political parties, irrespective of being either ruling or opposition, are sincerely focusing on this group to mark their turnaround. While there will be an estimated average of 1.49 lakh first-time voters in each Lok Sabha constituency, this figure is observed larger than the winning margin in 297 seats in 2014. Some of these first time voters may have got an opportunity to cast their vote during the regional elections, but this will be their first Lok Sabha elections.
With a median age of 27.9 years in 2018, India is a young country and by 2020, youth will make up 34 per cent population of the country. 45 million young people becoming eligible to vote as they turn 18 have been added in electoral roll of India since 2014, according to 2018 data from the Election Commission. This has expanded the voter list by 5 per cent since 2014. 24 million new voters had also joined the country’s electorate in 2014 general elections. Around 89.9 crore voters (which consists of 46.5 crore men, 43.2 crore women, and 33,109 third gender voters) are eligible to vote in the coming polls this year, and out of these, 1.6 crore are the first time voters. However, this number is likely to go up in the coming few months.
Reportedly, Rajasthan has added the highest number of eligible voters which stands at 20.3 lakh followed by 20 lakh in West Bengal, 16.76 lakh in Uttar Pradesh, 13.6 lakh in Madhya Pradesh and 11.99 lakh in Maharashtra.
Of the 282 Lok Sabha seats, 217 are from major states like West Bengal (32 seats), Bihar (29 seats), Uttar Pradesh (24seats), Karnataka (20 seats), Tamil Nadu (20 seats), Rajasthan (17 seats), Kerala (17), Jharkhand (13), Andhra Pradesh (12), Maharashtra (12), Madhya Pradesh (11) and Assam (10) are some of the major states where the state average of new voters since 2014 is more than the winning margins from the last general elections.
While talking with Afternoon Voice Former Congress Cabinet Minister Nitin Raut said, “Young voters are well aware of the current issues and they are thoughtful about how the country will progress. Rahul Gandhi is leading the youth as he is a young politician. We are programming to attract the youth by three ‘E’ — Education, Employment, and Entrepreneurship. Through this, we are asking the youth to vote for Congress. Rahul Gandhi keeps on interacting with young people. We are active on social media and have various other programs to reach young voters, for example, Project Shakti.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held the second edition of ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’ recently where he asked the students to be in direct contact with their respective MPs and MLAs, and question them if they lack in fulfilling their duties. However, after few days Congress President Rahul Gandhi too held a meeting with a selected group of students in Delhi where he interacted with students for two hours, touched caste-based discrimination, making education accessible to all, girls’ education, and atrocities against Dalits. Moreover, the regional political parties are also doing their best to influence and connect with the new voters in their respective zones. They are organizing camps and discussing with the students about how their states can be put on the path of the development.
Research fellow at University of Hyderabad Lokendra Pratap expressed, “Youth is an excited class who very well knows the ruling government and understands its ignorance towards employment, health sector, and education. Voters belonging to the OBC, ST, and SC category will not vote for BJP. However, among these new voters, there is a group of youth who are influenced by the mainstream media and will vote for BJP. Moreover, one of the most important issues is that who would they vote if not BJP?”
Chaity Banerjee, a college student and first time voter from Kolkata said, “The major advantage with the first time voters in 2019 Lok Sabha polls is that we are well aware of the happening in and around the country and our votes will certainly reflect what the country wants in the next five years. Only two months are left and leaders must keep in mind that the young voters are not emotional and they will cast their every vote evaluating the political parties on a rational basis.”
After the 2014 general elections, IndiaSpend had analysed how states with the highest population of young people had voted. The youth had catapulted the BJP to power in five states with the highest proportion of young voters. Issues related to the youth like education and jobs are likely to take the centre stage in the upcoming general election. However, employment is likely to be the biggest issue for the young vote bank; in the absence of the latest official data on the job, the political parties cannot take the risk to ignore it in their poll manifestos. The leaked report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) on employment data had shown that unemployment has reached 45-year-high at 6.1 per cent. The government has countered the data and stated that increased income tax returns filed a leap in provident fund accounts and showed the rise in jobs.
BJP MP Raksha Khadse expressed, “In the upcoming polls, young voters will be the most effective. The Central government has created 1.5 lakhs job in the railway department. The Maharashtra government too has successfully created jobs. Indian youth is influenced by Digital India and Make In India and they are participating in many government schemes. Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, MUDRA Yojana (PMMY), and Atal Pension Yojana have been made online to avoid corruption. With the online presence of such schemes, young people are realising the changes brought in the system. The PM Modi-led government has done a lot of work for the youth and we believe that the new voters will support BJP.”