By Nidhi Somani
April & May, 2014
Lok Sabha Elections in India
The world’s largest democracy
The most complex management process
The highest number of eligible voters ever
An average of 90000 first time voters in every constituency
Presidency College, Kolkata – One of the most politically sound colleges in the country saw two first year students discuss the political scenario after the general election dates were announced. They were excited to know that this time they will flaunt the black dot too. However, in their heads they were confused. The political scenario in India leaves everyone perplexed let alone the youth.
They decided to ask their fellow students what they thought and who they were going to vote for. Some said they don’t know – they will vote for whoever their parents vote for, some said the voting day is a holiday to relax and be at home, some pledged they had heard every speech of a said party and were convinced they were the future and some were just as confused as these two were.
Ashna and Abhishek discussed how every day the newspapers discussed the role of the youth in this election. Ashna’s elder sister was subject to sexual abuse a few days ago on her way to work. She wondered the constituency where this occurred was different from where she lived. Even if she did vote it would be only for her constituency and her neighborhood but what about the other localities she and her loved ones frequented. Abhishek pointed out in today’s time migration is more prevalent than ever before to different states let alone cities. What in this scenario does his vote count for? How does it matter who wins in the locality of permanent address when your everyday living is a different place altogether?
A lot of older people told these two that it did not matter who the candidate, what the election manifesto or what the promises they had loyalties tied to certain parties and that is where their vote would go. Down memory lane in the history of India we have seen politics played dirty encashing on caste, creed and religion. We have seen people being paid to go vote in favor of the party that paid. We have seen false promises and claims. But today we are waking up to a new era of Indian politics. Both these young people failed to understand these loyalties. History classes through the years of education had taught them By the People, for the people, of the People – and if you do not stand for it your power was to be taken away. Then what was the loyalty about?
Abhishek then asked Ashna if she had ever experienced anyone ever read an election manifesto. Her answer was no. I am sure a lot of you reading this right now are also wondering if you have experienced it ever. The answer for most of us is no.
They both went home with a mind more confused than when they began. They read and read, watched election campaigns, the news, interviews and everything they could lay their hands on.
Today the youth is more aware than has ever been. There is a huge amount of information influx. New forms of media such as social media are connecting more dots than any other form of media ever did. Socio-economic parameters have been transcended by the telephone and internet connectivity. There is no hiding anything that anybody did in any part of the country anymore. Even if the organized media is suppressed more often than not a video goes viral from some phone. It is in the light of such events that the media is also more vocal and less apprehensive to bring out the truth. No one is worried anymore of what the repercussions will be for today the political class is answerable to the country. Spoofs, Satires, cartoons and one liners are all over. They are in such spirit that you can like them or hate them but not ignore them. The awareness is on the rise. To add fuel to the fire is the option of none of the above. For the first time the voter has the power to cry out loud that no one is worthy of his/her vote. For in the history if it was not because you were good, you also got votes by the natural process of elimination of your competitors. This no longer holds true.
We must realize that the new set of voters has seen good times in India and they do not relate or compare to the times of distress. These people have grown up seeing hope for this country at 9% GDP growth rates and they want to rise with the country. They have more to gain or lose in the political scenario than any of their older counterparts. They are a generation that is Indian not Bengali or Punjabi or Muslim or Hindu. They are a generation that understands only prosperity, health, education and security.
The two of them met the next day with a new fire burning within them. They had discovered that the number of first time voters this time was large enough to tilt tables. To put this into perspective if all the first time voters vote for a particular party and no one else votes for them – they will still be higher than the number of votes the Congress won in the last elections. It is capable of getting politicians and parties that took seats for granted in certain constituencies to wake up and find the chair from under them moved. It is capable of raising voices for things that are not right, of standing up for what is needed. They just felt they had all the power in this election.
Jan Lokpal Bill, Nirbhaya and Section 377 protests are staring examples of what the youth of India can do. Political expressions need not be in the form of active politics. Forcing those in power to make decisions that are right for those who put you in power is also political victory. Even the political parties have realized the Youthphoria and there is more campaigning in universities and colleges than ever before. What is also interesting is that the male to female ratio to first time voters is almost equal. Also, the young women in India today have more strength and belief in their strength than ever before.
Online registrations for voting have made it easier for the voter to be a part of the elections. The lethargy and dearth of time and fear of long queues have been removed from the equation.
Ashna and Abhishek set out to a mission. They realized every vote counts no matter where you are voting for. It dawned upon them that the bigger decisions such as education, security, wages etc were all decided at the centre which was made of the majority from all constituencies. It was time to wake up and have a nation building team effort. It is the time when the power of the thumb is at its peak.
The power of the youth can be increased manifold if only each one of us took onto ourselves the task to tell people it is time for change, to show them this new episode that is about to unfold in the history of Indian politics. To cite examples, to infuse enthusiasm, to convince we the people of India can make a country that is truly a democracy which is by the people, for the people and of the people.
I do not stand here to campaign for a particular party but I stand to make sure we get what we deserve as a country which has a demographic dividend, which has opportunity to grow and where people are willing to achieve the highest goals.
Each one of us no matter how young or old,
Each one of us has a story to be told,
Each vote counts and how
If you want to bring a change – the time is now.
The author is a graduate from London School of Economics & Political Science with a M.Sc. in Finance and Economics. She is now based out of Kolkata, an ardent reader and analyst. With a history of various jobs in research and analysis she is now an Entrepreneur. She loves to think outside the ordinary and believe there is always more than what meets the eye.
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