Parties bet big on first-timers

With about 15 lakh first-time voters listed on the electoral roll, all political parties are vying with each other to woo them ahead of the May 12 elections.

As many as 15.42 lakh voters in the age group of 18-19 years have enrolled themselves on the electoral roll this year as against 7.13 lakh in 2013 during the previous Assembly elections. 

Political parties, on their part, have been doing everything they can to attract these young voters.

By launching ‘Nava Bengaluru-Nava Bharath’, the BJP tried involving fresh voters through competitions and college festivals.

The party has even planned on giving a select few winners of the competitions an opportunity to interact with the prime minister during one of his upcoming visits to the state.

Not to be left behind, the Congress too carried out a similar exercise. Young leaders in the party, including KPCC working president Dinesh Gundu Rao, launched ‘Nanna Karnataka’ programme, where the party planned to host 100 Town Hall sessions to connect with youths from across the state.

The JD(S), on the other hand, has been trying to connect with the young voters on social media. Not only did it introduce gaming apps to promote party’s activities, but also promised to provide jobs for one crore youths, if it comes to power.

This might not be a standout figure in the larger scheme of things, but one cannot negate the impact this segment made during the 2014 Parliamentary elections. However, does the younger demographics continue to be swayed
by the ‘Modi’ factor?

Ayush Mundhra, a B.Com student from Mysuru thinks that Karnataka should reject national parties. “Both national parties have indulged in rampant corruption. I think the JD(S) should be given a chance this time. Since they haven’t been in power for a long time, I think that the party will make a better effort to provide good governance.”

Madhuvanthi Bhat, a Psychology student from Bengaluru said she was excited to exercise her franchise for the first time. “I always wanted to vote ever since I turned 18. But I am not sure if my one vote would bring about any positive change when the system of governance is riddled with many issues mainly
corruption.”

According to political scientist Sandeep Shastry, there might be an electoral swing if parties made an effort to woo young voters in large numbers. He, however, wondered if this segment had the bandwidth to separate reality from rhetoric when it comes to making a choice.

He said until a decade ago, there was no generation gap in the voting choice, as young voters voted like others. In these elections, the social background and life experiences of young voters would assume significance. “What we have found in our recent survey is that the focus on local culture, language and other issues seem to resonate much more with young voters in small towns and cities than those living in big cities. Young voters in small towns and cities are looking for a bigger change. They have the inclination and aspiration to move up in life and are looking for those life opportunities. In cities, they are reasonably well looked after and therefore their aspiration level is not very high.”

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