Elections are the perfect example of unpredictability. When elections happen in the largest democracy of the world, it is indeed a big affair. Increasingly adding to the unpredictability factor is the young electorate, comprising of educated youth and first-time voters; people who not only form the much-talked-about demographic dividend that will boost India to greatness but also come with very little political baggage or affiliations, thereby giving political parties the opportunity to garner steadfast loyalty from these young minds.
The Census of 2011 forecasts that about 2 Crore Indians turn 18 annually. Eight years down the line, when elections come around this year, this number could easily be upward of 10 Crore. This is a segment no political party can afford to dismiss. First-time voters exhibit characteristics significantly different from other voters. They are educated, tech-savvy and highly aware; they have the potential to create a profound impact on their social networks by taking the role of influencers or promoters. They leverage social media to the most substantial extent and are capable of generating large ripples through network effects.
Cheap smartphones and the high pervasion of 4G are likely to be game-changers in elections 2019. It is predicted that political parties will also leverage social media like never before – video content, WhatsApp and Twitter posts will be catalysts in wooing media-savvy, young voters.
As responsible, aware citizens, the onus is on the youth to make informed decisions. Young voters need to first be cognizant of the fact that we live in a flourishing democracy which ensures freedom of thought to every person who calls this nation home. This said, exercising caution while expressing one’s views and constraint while commenting on others’ views (which may be contrary to one’s own) will go a long way in ensuring that our democracy remains genuinely functional. It also becomes extremely crucial for young voters to make informed choices before voting. They need to identify leaders and political parties not because their peers support them, instead because their views align. It is imperative that young voters do not fall into the trap of peer pressure for this leads to our democracy becoming dysfunctional in the long run.
In a democracy, the voice of every individual counts. For India to truly achieve development, the demographic dividend has to be harnessed to its fullest potential. The first step to this endeavour is an informed, educated vote.
About the Author:
Shabala Natarajan is a software engineer from Amrita University. An engineer in the head and an artist by heart, Shabala practices fusions of Renaissance art styles and experiments with Chiaroscuro and Cangiante. She has three years of experience in software development and product management, especially in Business Intelligence software.
A passionate polyglot, Shabala loves travelling, exploring new cultures and learning languages. She heads the International Cultures and Exposure SIG at ISB.