Most of the first-time voters denounce caste-based politics. “What century are we living in to choose our leaders on the basis of caste and creed? Look at the world, how fast it is changing and see where we stand with such values,” says Ajay Kumar (19) sipping lassi at a kiosk in Chowk.
“Let’s vote on the basis of merit, and that’s the only way to make Uttar Pradesh prosper,” said his friend Mohit (22), eagerly waiting for April 28, the day voters in Lucknow and suburbs would exercise their franchise.
“Living in the 21st century, if we claim to be a superpower by 2020, we need to look at things in a totally different perspective. We could begin with doing away with caste-based politics,” says Vipul (20), a cloth merchant in Hazratganj.
“Don’t you think our democracy is in a nascent stage still?” he says, adding that there were so many things to worry about in our country, but we were still latching on to age-old, weatherbeaten values.
Syed Mehdi (25) hopes that we exercise our franchise independently. “We must use wisdom in casting our invaluable vote,” he says as he thanks the Election Commission for violence-free conduct of the poll so far and for inculcating a sense of confidence among voters.
“I did not vote last time, but this time I want to; thanks the poll commission” Mehdi reiterated.
“I am a Kayasth, but I am not going to vote for a candidate just because he belongs to my caste,” says Ashish Sagar (20) of LDA Kanpur road. “We have worked out a report card of candidates in our locality on the basis of their character, sincerity and social commitment,” he says, adding, “We are going to vote on the basis of merit.
All bad things and worn out traditions have to change. Let’s hope people choose their candidates on the basis of merit.” But everybody is not of the same opinion.
“We have been voting for candidates of our caste for ages, and I will follow what my elders have done,” said Anand (24), an MBA from Delhi University. He says caste-based politics has always been followed in Uttar Pradesh.
Karuna (in her early 20s), an undergraduate, says she got her name registered in the voters’ list for the time—but with a purpose. “Only so that I could vote out the bad candidate,” she said.
“But whom to vote for is the big question, because all parties are contesting polls on the basis of caste,” she said.
Karuna’s friend Rahul Jha (25) would be voting for the second time. “I voted for a candidate of my caste last time, but this time I will vote against him,” he claims, attributing his change of mind to “lack of development in my locality”.
Sabir (23) of the Hussainabad area of Old Lucknow says his concern is peace in his locality. “Look at what happened recently?” he said, referring to violence that erupted in these parts. “I haven’t yet decided whom to vote for, but I would see to it that my vote is not wasted.”
“I would prefer to vote for a person with a clean image,” says Sayyed Qamar (24).
“Things are slightly better in some parts of the country like Maharashtra, where people are voting wisely, but there’s a long way to go still,” said Mahesh Sharma (23)who spent a few years in Maharashtra.
“Uttar Pradesh needs to bring in a change and that can be done by a handful of people like us who would vote only on the basis of merit and not caste,” said Manoj Mohan (22), undergraduate. Caste-based politics breeds nepotism, and favoritism, and the only way of getting rid of it is by voting on the basis of merit, he adds.