The air is thick with poll hysteria and first-time voters seem to be savouring the all-encompassing fervour, says P. Sujatha Varma

Love them or hate them, you have to admire their chutzpah. They are the indispensable cog in the election wheel gaining momentum by the day. Election fever is spreading across the region and the race is heating up between major political parties in the fray.

Debates over party candidates, their unique campaign style and other emerging trends have become a cultural phenomenon in their own right; slogans, traditional art forms and themed events are all part and parcel of the massive run up to the big day.

This is a memorable period as canvassing by candidates touches almost every aspect of life of the man on the street. This is a time for endless hours of airtime by television channels and more sound bites than anyone cares to remember. And then, in about a couple of more months from now, the electorate will give its verdict.

People are eager to know all about this race, which could be close between major political rivals. There is a sense of urgency to participate. Young voters want to, they need to, urgently. There is this poll hysteria in the air which has affected almost everybody. For youth, especially the first-time voters, it’s a unique experience. Discussions among groups are as animated as intense; agreements, disagreements, consensus and compromises are commonplace. “The problem is, I can’t imagine why anybody would want to vote for that man” or “If you can’t process it, there is a remedy,” are the rants heard around. Most youngsters say they can comprehend political decisions which reek of vote-reaping strategies and speak elaborately about a war behind the scenes between the main players.

Leaders of prominent parties, meanwhile, make all-out efforts to woo the young brigade. The need to make them aware of their duty to vote is also increasingly being felt. “Voting is habit-forming; when young people learn the voting process and vote they are more likely to do so when they are older. This way, getting young people to vote early could be key to raising a new generation of voters,” says L. Dharmateja who teaches political science.

Getting oneself registered as a voter is sometimes a larger hurdle than the act of voting itself. “Personalised and interactive contact counts. The most effective way of getting a new voter is the in-person door-knock by a peer. Talk to them! Leaving young voters off contact lists can be a costly mistake which some parties are doing,” says a prominent political leader.

“Unlike in the 2009 elections which saw a surge of women voters, a large number of young voters will be seen this time because of improved awareness thanks to social networking sites which played a role in stimulating the younger brigade ,” says Devineni Avinash, president of Youth Congress Party in Vijayawada Parliamentary constituency.

He says the tech-savvy and ‘live-in-the-moment’ generation is already leaning towards parties that have embraced technology in a big way.