Opinion | Young voters will decide India’s fate
The country is facing an avalanche of electoral promises which come thundering down every five years. In most of the promises this time, efforts are focused on luring young voters. To what extent will these promises be realised? This question can’t be answered now but if young voters are the focus of the electoral discourse, this should be considered as an auspicious sign.
This was bound to happen. In the last few elections, this fact has emerged very clearly that the electors voting for the first or second time now hold a decisive position. All available data confirms this. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections there were about 10 crore new voters added. Of these, nearly 2.5 crore were under 20 years of age and had acquired the right to vote for the first time. In the previous elections, among a total of 81.5 crore registered voters 52% were below 40 years of age.
Needless to say that this is the section of our society upon whose shoulders the responsibility of building the future of this country lies. This class needs the right guidance and support. Look at the data. The crumbling education system has made the initial foundation for building character and personality very weak and decrepit. Talks and efforts for social reforms are now limited to professional NGOs. It’s clear that the ‘light houses’ for guiding the youth are now no longer there.
Now is the era of social media and the information that flows through it has utterly ruined all respect for knowledge in our society. Every day, ridiculous things are mentioned about a leader, a historical personality or Indian culture that the air already deadly with the toxicity of all the ideological dirt being aired. According to Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research, India has 43 crore smartphone users. Through these smartphones, they access WhatsApp. WhatsApp operators themselves claim that 20 crore people in India actively use this messenger service. There are 87,000 active users groups which continuously keep circulating various kinds of messages. This is the best medium for the electoral warriors to reach and convey their opinion to the people.
This is how we continue to get a wide variety of audio, video and written messages throughout the day and night. These messages contain the details of someone’s character or the evil deeds of someone else. This is a natural Indian mentality that we feel happy to consume a piece of information which we have received free of cost. But this delight is now proving to be costly as our young generation is being brainwashed into readily accepting half-truths or complete lies.
Look at the figures to see how pervasive this menace is. This time a total of 90 crores voters has been registered. The number of first time young voters among them is 1.5 crore. All of them are 18 to 20 years of age. If we look at this figure closely we will find that most of the young first time voters have been registered in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. There are 235 Lok Sabha seats in these states. That means these states will play a significant role in the formation of the new government at the Centre because 43% of the Lok Sabha members will be elected from these states.
The situation on the ground in these states is pathetic. Farmers here have been committing suicide, women are unsafe, a large number of unemployed youth also belongs to these states. Whether it is social inequality or the feudal mentality, the worst ill-effects of these are seen in these areas. Observe the paradox, most of the country’s prime ministers have come from these areas. Yet they are in such a pathetic condition. Why is this? If we start looking for an answer to this question, we will have to write many such articles, but the truth is that the youth of this area will play a decisive role in electing the new government. This section will also have the maximum expectation of attention from the government. They are dissatisfied with their condition and will cast their vote with the hope that their problems will be resolved in next five years. Will their hopes be fulfilled? This abundance of promises doesn’t bode good. This may bring in a flood of votes for political leaders but the voters will only become more frustrated and desperate. And in such a scenario, the invisible alchemists of social media will succeed in misguiding voters.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan
The views expressed are personal