It’s eight in the morning and a cricket match is underway at a park in Andrews Ganj. Playing with the young local team is councillor Abhishek Dutt. After a few shots, Dutt interacts with the players and asks them to vote in the MCD elections.
Almost 55% voters in Andrews Ganj are between the age group of 18-40, says Dutt explaining why he is going the distance to interact with youngsters.
In 2015, Delhi had 1.72 lakh first-time voters. Subhash Arya, the outgoing leader of house, South Corporation, said that this time almost 55% of Capital’s electorate falls in the age group of 18-35 which is why candidates are using all means to engage and attract youth.
After Dutt left, we interacted with the youngsters who had come out to play. Most of them said they were not aware of the activities of the MCD in their area but recognised Dutt. “I don’t know what work is done under MCD. I got to know about the elections when the campaigning picked up. Most candidates are never seen after the elections and we know nothing about them,” said 22-year-old Chandan.
To net young voters like Chandan, candidates this time are using innovative ideas. Activities that engage young audiences, such as sports, dance and theatre are being organised. Some, like CR Park councillor Virender Kasana, are also taking the traditional route of drawing a list of young voters and holding interactive sessions with them.
Like Abhishek Dutt, some candidates believe that issues that concern young voters are different from routine matters, but not everyone agrees. Dutt’s rival, Rajeev Rana (BJP), says primary civic issues are key in MCD polls. “I think better roads, drainage and sanitation are everybody’s priority irrespective of age group he/she belongs to. You can talk about all sorts of interesting projects but what about the implementation?” he said.
The Capitals’ youth, though, are hardly impressed by these endeavours. Vihan Gulati, a resident of DDA Flats in Vasant Kunj says he has never seen his councillor. The 24-year-old student rues that there is no playground in his area but only ornamental parks. “Even if we develop a play area, maintenance is a huge problem. We have made a badminton court in this block but there is no electricity there. We had also made a basketball court but there too we faced similar problems,” said Vihan. Like many other first-time voters he does not fully understand the working of MCDs and mixes up between MLA and councillor. He added that the area representatives make no efforts to increase awareness, or to clear the confusion about jurisdiction.
In CR Park too, sports facility has been one of the key demands. “We are crazy about football and we have been asking for a ground for a long time. The Mela Ground has now been developed for this,” said Bibek Deb, 21, resident of C block. Tournaments are regularly organised here and Kasana, who is a Congress candidate from CR Park ward, too drops in. “This is the only place where one can interact with people of all age groups, specially youth. I request them to vote in Municipal elections and explain to them the role of a civic agency,” said Kasana.
He believes that young people don’t come out to vote as they are not that concerned about civic issues in area. “So, it is important to interact with them and make them understand things their way,” he said.
Among those who had come to watch a football tournament at the Mela Grounds were some youngsters from Janata Flats. While they fall in the same ward, the playground facility is not available in their area. “Facilities like open gym and playground should not be restricted to affluent areas,” they said.
The issues concerning young voters, however, are not restricted to sports. In Krishna Nagar, Sandeep Kapoor, a BJP candidate, is taking the help of Raahgiri Programmes to communicate with the youth. “I have already chalked out list of people up to 35 years of age and I am conducting workshops to know their issues,” he said.
Take for example, 26-year-old Ankita Arora, who lives in Sector 5, Dwarka. She says sports don’t interest her much but she likes to go for a walk every evening. “The garden I go to is in good shape but every day I have to cross Sector 4 market where sewage flow is a perennial problem.” She says the residents have not been able to figure out who is responsible for the problem. Like most young voters in the Capital, she too feels lost over what the MCD does and how the councillor is answerable to the ward.