Waiting outside a polling booth in Jawahar Vidyalaya, Ashok Nagar, R.Anandhi (19) is one of those who defines all the possibilities that young India has to offer. Severely affected by polio and relying on crutches, she forced her parents to bring her to the booth. “Vote podanum. Kadamai illaya,” she said.
Ms.Anandhi along with many others like her are redefining notions about a category of voters, who were thought to have little interest in democracy – the first-time voter.
R. Balaji (26), who missed the last Assembly elections, says, “I want to live in a corruption-free society. I believe that every vote can make a difference.”
Some of them were just excited to have the blue ink mark on their left forefinger for the first time. “We were eager to vote. We were waiting for this day for a long time,” said Swarnapriya, an M.Tech student, who had come to vote at a government school in Madambakkam, along with her younger sister Mohanapriya.
“We spent a lot of time speaking with relatives and friends before taking a decision on whom to vote,” Ms. Mohanapriya said.
Young voters had the advantage of being tech savvy and many of them did enough research online before stepping into the polling booth. Bharath Murali was upset when he did not find his name in the voters' list at Kesari High School (booth no. 144), T. Nagar.
“They gave me three books to scan. I told them that my name was on the electoral rolls published online. They told me to go and check on the Net. I went home and took a print out of the list which had my name. With that I was allowed to vote,” he says.
He adds that 10 others, including elderly persons, who came from the poorer neighbourhoods, returned disappointed without voting.
A. Sofia, a resident of Krishnapuram, Ambattur, was thrilled to vote for the first time. “I checked with friends and parents about the voting procedure and the candidates in fray. I didn't mind the long queue and the wait, at the booth in Sir Ramasamy Mudaliar Higher Secondary School. I felt proud when I pressed the blue button,” she said.
While many youngsters said that they came out to vote to ensure no one else could cast their vote, there was also a consensus on this being the time to “stop complaining and start voting.” Sangeetha Manoharan, who turned 18 just a month ago, said, “Voting signifies a complete transformation into the adult world. It means my voice actually counts. Till now, I didn't have a say in how things were run.”
She added that those who did not vote “are missing out on something. They are compromising on their right.”
(With inputs from Ajai Sreevatsan, K. Manikandan, Meera Srinivasan, K. Lakshmi and R. Sujatha)
Keywords: Tamil Nadu assembly polls