For Indian youth, the levels of engagement in politics are different as are the reasons.
Politics, however, is no longer the one-way street to be travelled only to vote because youngsters know what the country needs and what they want lies somewhere amid the usual rough and tumble.
According to the HT-MaRS Youth survey 2013, 21.7% youth in Lucknow and 21.3% in Patna see their future with a party, while only 10% in Ahmedabad think so. In Mumbai, only 9.5% youth are interested in being politically active.
The varying interest levels are linked to the diverse ways in which the youth across the country connect to politics.
“In the hierarchy of development, places such as Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad have done better. Its youth know whether they support a party or not, their agenda will be served and in any competition for material advancement, they will dominate. They can afford to be lukewarm about politics,” said sociologist Shiv Vishvanathan.
In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, politics is both a diversion and a necessity on account of the socio-economic inequalities. Moreover, caste is a big political factor and its youth admit that freely.
Anup, a Dalit researcher in Noida, said, "UP and Bihar do identity politics because unlike states such as Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra, where industrialisation has taken off and a middle-class youth has access to education and infrastructure to get ahead. We have to assert through caste."
The uneven nature of development has created differential levels of access, across regions, to its fruits. This explains the persistence of caste as an idiom of intense politicisation in some states as opposed to a studied detachment from and indifference to politics in others.
In our survey, 23.1% youth said they would vote according to caste/religion. “Dalits see their future with the BSP, OBCs see their interests served by siding with the SP,” said professor Badri Narayan of GB Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad.
Educated youth, however, wrap the caste factor in the language of development.
Anil Yadav, a Lucknow-based student who belongs to a dominant caste-group among the OBCs, points to Samajwadi Party’s achievements — laptops, educational waivers for SC/STs — to show why he supports its government. "Ultimately, I need education, health facilities, electricity."
The youth are also looking for solutions in personalities without ignoring which party is fielding them.
According to the survey, 27.8% respondents will consider candidates’ merits and 24.6% the party when they vote.
Priyanka Prakash, a Bangalore-based chartered accountant, said she would decide whom to vote for after checking party manifestos.
Mumbai’s Siddhesh Shetty, a business development manager, said the "local guy" would be important for him.
Iram Khan, a Delhi lawyer, said, "I will decide to vote either SP or Congress closer to the elections. The Third Front could also be an option."
For the youth, the only real consensus is about mobility at all costs, said Vishvanathan. "They are not interested in the relationship between corruption and democracy or the lack of it," he said. "They want to be in a democracy, but they like fast cars more."