Finger ink “selfies” seemed to be the last thing on their minds as young first-time voters (between 18 and 19 years) queued up to vote on Thursday. But, while everything from price rise to corruption and gay rights featured on the priority list of young voters The Hindu spoke to, the most pervasive sentiment appeared to be “the need for change”.
“I have always been interested in politics, so it is good to be able to finally vote,” said Nitish, who studies in the United States and happens to be here on vacation. His vote was cast in the Bangalore Central Lok Sabha constituency “for a change at the national level,” not so much with an eye on local issues, he said. His friend Prabhakar said he was tired of the ever-spiralling price rise: “It hits you the moment you leave home. I want a government that can resolve this.”
“I voted against corruption,” said Shivani, a law student. “I need to see conviction in the party to end corruption.”
Over 11 lakh young voters have enrolled in Karnataka since January this year, making up 2.4 per cent of the State’s electorate, a big rise from the last general elections in 2009 when new voter representation was a third of this figure, at 0.85 per cent.
But young voters made up only between 1.8 to 1.9 per cent of the electorate in Bangalore’s constituencies. Whether a function of demography or voter apathy, Karnataka’s richest pockets have seen nearly half the share of new voters as some of the State’s most economically backward and drought-prone northern districts. Mysore, with a 1.7 per cent enrolment of 18 to 19-year-olds faired even worse than Bangalore. Raichur district, on the other hand, had a 3.2 per cent enrolment of this age bracket, while Koppal saw 3.14 per cent enrolment.
“Cities typically have a greater concentration of a working population, especially in the 20 to 39 age group,” says Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha.
But this disparity in enrolments could just as well be a reflection of the well-established skew in electoral participation between urban and rural India, says Trilochan Sastry, founder of the Association for Democratic Reforms.
The representation of young voters in Karnataka is the lowest among the southern Indian States. It is 2.7 per cent in Tamil Nadu and 2.8 per cent in Kerala, according to data obtained from regional offices of the Election Commission.