Political parties in India are fine-tuning their election campaigns to target 100 million first-time voters who are set to cast their votes in general elections over the next two months. In order to reach this huge voter group, political parties are using innovative campaigns and new media.
Nearly one-fourth of India’s electorate is below the age of 25
Political parties are doing everything they can to tap the youth vote. They are putting up young candidates for the elections to make their parties more attractive and to send out the signal that the country needs young people if it is to develop further.
With an economy that grew at 9 percent annually for the last three years and boosted Internet penetration considerably, younger Indian politicians are following in US President Barack Obama’s footsteps and embracing the internet to reach out.
Through video clips on YouTube, Facebook updates and blogs, political parties are pulling out all the stops to woo this crucial constituency of India’s population that is under the age of 35.
Choosing appropriate candidates
Knowing that their vote counts these youngsters are also keen to vote for the most appropriate candidate. Young people have realised the significance of their individual vote as a result of the online voter registration drives in some 35 cities.
Rather than just knowing how to vote, young people are busy making up their minds who to vote for.
Shweta Lal, a college student says she is keen to vote for a young lawmaker.
"I would like to vote for someone who is young because now the requirements have changed," says Lal.
"There is a lot of difference. We have fresh trends and fresh needs. Personally, I would like to have young blood in politics with new innovative ideas and energy flows that can drive my nation."
Going beyond religion
Elections in the past have often been dominated by caste equations and identity politics but many young people in urban areas and even those in the rural hinterland who have expectations are now more concerned to realise their professional ambitions than to follow caste lines or religious beliefs.
Salma Khan, an architecture student says religion in politics is a curse.
“I am going to vote and the person elected by me must keep religion out of politics," says Khan. "When it comes to college, we live harmoniously, then why is it only in politics that religion has a say. Strictly keep religion out of politics.”
It is no surprise that the ruling Congress party and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are devoting more time to attracting first-time voters. Issues like security for the country and protection for women dominate the election speeches of their respective candidates.
Kamini Jain, another first-time voter says these twin issues are close to many youngsters' hearts:
"Sincerity and security. Sincerity in politicians and security for women. I want to wear what I want and I want to go out comfortably. And as a citizen we want security because one of my friends died in a blast. For that we need security for citizens and I think that it is very important.”
It is a conscious choice that many young people feel is important in this poll. And because of the registration drives record numbers of the young will vote for the first time. And that makes the election so difficult to call.