How Young India Voted?

In the crowded alleys of Chawri Bazar in Old Delhi, amidst the din of daily bustle — labourers bathing, snoozing outside shuttered shops, reading newspapers and sipping tea — 23-year-old Heena Bharadwaj excitedly reveals her inked index finger. A physiotherapist by profession, this was the first time Bharadwaj had voted; she said she voted for change.

Bharadwaj said she was excited to have voted for newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). “I want to see change. Politicians today are simply lining their pockets with money. At least the AAP cares about the real issues.”

With 120 million first-time voters among India’s 814 million-strong electorate, Delhi witnessed a 65.09 per cent turnout on April 10, much higher than the 2009 figure, which was an appalling 51.85 per cent. According to government data, 65 per cent of India’s population is aged 35 or less, a third of India’s population is under 15, more than half under 24, while around 150 million are eligible to vote for the
first time.

Over 100 million voters have been added to the electorate since 2009. Interestingly, the male to female ratio of the young first-time voter is a little less than equal. A recent report by the United Nations states that along with “vibrancy” among young people, there is great anger too. According to government data, although growth averaged 8.7 per cent from 2005 to 2010, only one million jobs were created, leaving 59 million new entrants into the labour market with nothing.

For Bharadwaj, the core issues are security and safety of women, reservations, and the end of corruption. “Women have become unsafe in this country, especially in Delhi. They cannot go out alone. Also, reservation for STs and SCs promotes open bias against the general category. I want equality for all,” she said, “This is why I voted today.”

Her brother, Vishal Bharadwaj, 19, was also voting for the first time. A hotel management student, Vishal voted for AAP and said he wanted the local problems solved. “There are big issues like corruption but I voted to seek solutions for problems in our area,” he said.

The interesting phenomenon this election is witnessing is the increasing interest of the middle and the upper-class young Indian voters who want to make their presence felt. The most important issues concerning the youth in this election revolve around better employment opportunities, allocation of 5 per cent of GDP to education, and inflation, and corruption. Having been disillusioned with the incumbent government that has been marred by scams and corruption, the youth are looking for a better alternative. This has given an edge to the opposition Hindu nationalist party that has been using the face of the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, to garner votes in the name of development.

The new entrant, AAP,  had raised hopes among young Indians as it won 28 seats in the Delhi assembly elections in 2013. After it renounced the government in Delhi alleging a conspiracy by the Congress and BJP to hinder the passing of the Jan Lokpal Bill in the assembly, the urban youth became more disillusioned.