New voter is impatient, but still not a critical mass

Jabir Mushthari
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The massive yearning for change may be compromised by practical considerations

With about 20 lakh new voters in the State expected to exercise their maiden democratic choice in the April 10 Lok Sabha elections, much is being spoken and written about them and their likely voting preferences. What comes across from all these is the image of impatient 18 year olds ready to embrace a brave new world, free from corruption and that holds unlimited promise of development.

Impatient the new generation certainly seems to be, as can be gleaned from its responses to such terms as ‘politics,’ ‘politicians,’ and ‘democracy.’ And that seems to have much to do with the awakening among large sections of the middle-class, educated, and urban Indian population about the massive corruption marking governance at every level in the country, and the need for a new grammar of public engagement. Still there is also much that is a continuation of the old among the new voters, though many seem to be unaware of this.

A band of youngsters campaigning in the State capital for one of the major political formations had no doubts about their choice. The notice issued on behalf of their candidate was full of promises of the developmental possibilities of the constituency. Contrast this with what M. Shafeeq, a B.Sc. student from Thamarassery in Kozhikode, has to say about many people his age who have no option but to vote for one or the other contestant in the fray in the absence of an ideal candidate or a model party.

For him, says Shafeeq, it is “sad compromise” as one’s options are so limited, and it is no use wasting a vote. “In the absence of a better choice, I will still vote for a party that is relatively good. But that will not be a vote from my heart,” he says.

Regardless of whether they are tagged political or apolitical, a section of the young voters is angry with the ways of mainstream political parties. They cite corruption as the biggest of all problems faced by the country. Many like Renia Correy from Manjummal in Ernakulam believe that “this election will be fought between corrupt and honest politicians.” For Ms. Correy, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is a “great hope” on the political horizon.

There are a good number of voters such as Sinu Abraham, a young artist from Thiruvananthapuram, who want to use their vote as a statement against communal forces. Sinu prefers to vote for someone who is open-minded and stands for liberal values. The winning party, he says, should urgently work for revitalising the education system by nurturing the inborn talent of children, rather than “force-fitting” them into the system.

Interestingly, the preference of family members is also a factor in deciding the party or candidate that many youngsters vote for, and this is where the old order draws its sustenance from. Aliya Mary, a computer science graduate from Paravoor, is among the new voters who will be following her family tradition in the exercise of her franchise. “I am not much into politics, but I don’t think deciding my candidate will be tricky on polling day,” she says.

The influence of the media cannot be written off when it comes to the youth deciding whom they wish to vote for. Some like Femina Francis from Thuruthipuram in Ernakulam are “fascinated” by the television campaigns for political leaders, but have not gone into the many ways in which they have been critically examined by the media. There are also youngsters like K.V. Anaswara, a BA Economics student from Kozhikode, who is set on deciding her candidate based on his/her merit. “It’s not about politics. I will vote only for someone who, I believe, can do things for people belonging to the lowest strata of society,” she says.

A new voter need not always be a youngster as Suchitra Prabhakaran from West Hill in Kozhikode tells us. She is one of those who relocated to her home State from abroad recently, and is getting ready to cast her vote after a long gap. “Our politics has a long way to go. We need a complete overhaul of the system, and for that we need young leaders with a vision,” says Ms. Prabhakaran, speaking about what she is looking for in a candidate.

The last date for submitting applications for enrolment as a voter was March 10. Additional Chief Electoral Officer Sabu Paul Sebastian told The Hindu over phone that scrutiny of the applications would continue till the last week of March, and the final figures of voters would be available only after that.

The total number of voters in the State for this election even as publication of the final voter list is awaited is 2,33,54,373, against the 2,18,59,536 during the last Lok Sabha election.

Of these, 1,12, 27,074 voters are male and 1,21,27,299 female. The final figures of voters, including the new voters, should be available in a few days.

(With inputs from K.A. Shaji in Kochi and S.R. Praveen in Thiruvananthapuram)



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