Of the several factors which contributed to the big win for the Bharatiya Janata Party, the role of youth can neither be understated nor overstated. These elections witnessed much higher participation of >first-time voters compared to past elections but these voters do not seem to have voted for the BJP in a big way. In some States, the BJP seemed to have more votes among ‘other young voters’ (23-25 years of age) or among middle-aged voters. But even a marginal shift in the votes of first-time voters in favour of the BJP was enough to help the party register an impressive victory. This is because first-time voters were in large numbers in most constituencies.
Compared to the average >national turnout of 66.6 per cent , the turnout among first-time voters (18-22 years) and ‘other young voters’ was 68 per cent. These figures alone may not look significant as the turnout among first-time voters seems only 1.4 percentage points more compared to the average turnout. But it is significant to note that in the past, the turnout among young voters has always been lower compared to the average national turnout.
The increase in turnout among first-time voters was visible in both rural and urban constituencies. Though the turnout among young voters was higher in rural constituencies, it was also higher among voters of other age groups.
It is also important to note that young women voted in sizeable numbers in these elections, hardly lagging behind their young male counterparts.
State-wise participation Some States witnessed much higher electoral participation of the youth compared to other States. The turnout among first-time voters was much higher than the average turnout in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Punjab and Rajasthan, while in some other States it was more or less at par.
The biggest shift among first-time voters in favour of the BJP could be seen in Madhya Pradesh followed by Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.
However, in many other States where the party registered an impressive victory — Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — it received more support among voters of the age group 23-25 and among other middle-aged voters compared to first-time voters.
(Sanjay Kumar is Director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.)